At two o’clock in the morning, gays are lining up for vaccines against monkey pox. Many leave empty-handed

San Francisco

The line begins to form before sunrise outside the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, with some people arriving as early as two in the morning, bringing folding chairs and blankets to protect from the Bay Area’s nightly chill.

They wear face masks and maintain social distancing from others, adhering to the basic principles of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic – when the desperate need for vaccines has far exceeded what federal and state governments can provide.

This line of mostly male is waiting for a monkey pox vaccine. The disease is spreading rapidly and on Thursday the Biden administration announced it as a public health emergency.

However, many will leave empty-handed as local hospitals and clinics have had to rely on an inconsistent and under-supply of vaccines, a dilemma that has infuriated patients and attorneys.

General San Francisco opens the clinic door at 8 a.m. and the line slowly moves forward. The hospital will distribute available doses as long as supplies last.

For 31-year-old Cody Aarons, this was his third attempt. He was standing calmly, and there were over 100 people in front of him.

“I’ve been in New York for work for the past month and tried with their portal system and haven’t been able to get a vaccine,” said a health worker who thought he might have a better chance in San Francisco.

But 45 minutes after the daily distribution began, a hospital employee walked by with an announcement. “People, we’ve reached our limit for today,” he shouted. “But we’ll try to find more shots.”

Though with no guarantee that he would get the monkey pox vaccine that day, Aarons – and almost everyone in the line – stayed where they were.

“People want a vaccine,” said Rafael Mandelman, a member of the San Francisco board of directors. “I know one person who was in this line for four different days before he finally got vaccinated.”

Mandelman, who got up at 4:30 in the morning and waited for hours before getting the vaccine a few days earlier, is frustrated by the introduction.

“After going through a pandemic in which we were able to discover a new vaccine, [and] handing out tens of millions of doses in a few months, the fact that with the existing known vaccine we cannot get more than those lame little drops is very frustrating for humans, ”he said.

In California, the vast majority of those infected – over 98% – are men, with over 91% of patients identifying as LGBTQ. Mandelman feels that he and other members of the gay community are left alone without the support of the federal government.

For healthcare professionals, the outbreak is a frustrating new chapter in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During the peak period of Covid immunization, an average of 1,400 to 1,500 (doses) per day. So we’re totally used to the mass vaccination process, ”said Nurse Leader Merjo Roca.

But Roca and her staff are limited in what they can do given the vaccine shortage.

San Francisco health officials initially requested 35,000 doses but say they only received 12,000 from federal supplies. The state of California has informed city leaders that San Francisco will receive 10,700 consecutive doses in the next assignment, however there are no clear indications of when these doses will arrive or how many will end up in the San Francisco General Hospital for distribution.

“I think one of our biggest challenges is actually the supply inconsistency,” said Roca. “Our vaccination clinic prides itself on being able to help and vaccinate people who walk through our door. So it is very difficult for all of our workers not to be able to do this and have to reject people and not even have the information to tell when we will get the next doses. ”

As many of those in the line are concerned about the rapid increase in the number of monkey pox cases, clinic staff is under an extra burden as they cannot provide everything for everyone.

“It’s very difficult to listen to someone explain why they want a vaccine and why they need a vaccine and we just don’t have one,” added Roca.

Kevin Kwong shows off his monkey pox changes.  He recently recovered from monkey pox after being diagnosed in early July.

The government says it acted urgently and on the basis of data. And there are clear differences between the response now and the response to HIV / AIDS. But some supporters argue that the perceived lack of urgent need by the government to address the public health crisis that is affecting the queer community today reflects what gays experienced decades ago.

Between October 1980 and May 1981, five young men from all over Los Angeles – then referred to as “active homosexuals” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – were diagnosed with an unusual lung infection and two died.

It was the first case of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – a devastating advanced-stage HIV infection that has claimed the lives of more than 40 million people worldwide – and was first reported in the United States.

Exchanges between the press secretary of then-President Ronald Reagan and journalists in 1982 and 1983 indicate that top officials and mainstream society saw the disease as a joke, not a problem.

This was because AIDS was viewed as a “gay scourge” – a condition that is believed to be related to gay lifestyle and behavior – even though cases have also been reported in women, infants, people with hemophilia, and those who injected drugs.

Now, more than 40 years later, the gay community is once again struggling with feelings of ostracism and neglect by its own government.

“We have a duty not to stigmatize or politicize this problem for a long-standing community that has long been marginalized in our community,” said Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Dating back to the earliest days of the HIV epidemic in our country, we saw our community abandoned by the federal government in response,” he said.

The Foundation opened its doors in 1982 “at a time of crisis in our community, when the federal government abandoned us … there are parallels between this moment and now,” according to TerMeer.

“President Biden has urged us to explore every available option to combat the monkey pox epidemic and protect vulnerable communities,” said Robert Fenton, the national coordinator of the monkey pox response at the White House. “We are drawing lessons from the battles we have fought – from COVID response to fires to measles, and we will address this epidemic with the urgency that the moment demands.”

According to the CDC, monkey pox is a pox virus related to both smallpox and vaccinia, and generally causes blemish-like or blister-like lesions and flu-like symptoms such as fever.

Lesions usually focus on the arms and legs, but in the most recent outbreak, they appear more often in the genital and perianal areas, raising some concern that monkey pox lesions may be confused with STDs.

“I’ve had 600 to 800 lesions all over my body… It was like someone punching all over my body. There were places where I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t touch things, said Kevin Kwong, who recently recovered from monkey pox after being diagnosed in early July.

He described his ordeal on social media to make people aware of the outbreak and now wants to “concentrate on de-stigmatizing the gay community.”

People line up to get vaccinated against the monkey pox virus last month at the Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

The first case of monkey pox in the US was announced on May 18 in a patient hospitalized in Massachusetts who was traveling to Canada by private transportation.

Less than three months later, there are more than 7,000 confirmed cases of epidemics nationwide, identified in all states except two – Montana and Wyoming, according to the CDC.

Since the beginning of June, the CDC has claimed to educate extensively and reach the LGBTQ community, including working with local Pride organizations, publishing educational videos, and creating campaigns on social networking sites and dating apps popular in the gay community.

According to the World Health Organization, as of August 3, the laboratory confirmed 25,054 cases and 122 probable cases.

“At the moment it is an epidemic that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those who have multiple partners,” said World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in late July, when the WHO declared monkey pox a public health emergency. international reach. .

But while the epidemic disproportionately affected some gay communities, there is growing concern over the spread of infection.

The CDC reported the first two cases of monkey pox in children in late July. Two other pediatric cases were confirmed in Indiana and another in Long Beach, California earlier this week.

“This is a reminder that anyone, regardless of age or sexual orientation, can contract monkey pox if they come in contact with the virus,” warns the City of Long Beach, echoing the CDC’s guidance that while the risk of infection in children is low, they are ” more likely to develop monkey pox if they live in or have recently traveled to communities with higher rates of infection. ‘

More than 500 outbreak cases have been identified in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Texas, according to the latest CDC data. New York has the highest number of cases – 1,748 – followed by California with 826 confirmed cases.

“We need everyone to tackle this problem quickly and quickly,” said TerMeer. “There is an approaching window of time in which we can overtake the rapid spread of monkey pox in our country, and that window is still closing.”

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