White House monkeypox officials defend approach as caseload rises

WASHINGTON — It’s the time of year when gay men say goodbye to summer with trips to the beach and resorts for festivities, parties and other merrymaking consisting of shirtless dancing and various forms of intimate contact – now a potential health risk as super-spreading events amid an outbreak of monkeypox that continues to spread among men who have sex with men.

With the number of reported cases of monkeypox in the United States reaching 12,689 and demand for vaccines failing to keep up with supply, questions remain about taking precautions like those seen during the coronavirus outbreak as the Health experts and event organizers point to existing guidelines to ensure a reasonable degree of safety.

Wes Combs, chairman of the board of CAMP Rehoboth, said his organization since the monkeypox outbreak began has spoken with Delaware state-level health officials about what people should search in terms of symptoms, as well as information. on how people in high-risk categories can register for vaccination.

“Like all over the country right now, where LGBTQ communities have large populations, people are worried, so we’ve had a number of calls for more information about monkeypox, to find out if people can or no get vaccinated at CAMP Rehoboth,” Combs said.

A monkeypox town hall hosted by CAMP Rehoboth in conjunction with Delaware state health officials was held on Tuesday, providing an opportunity to offer the latest information and answer questions about the monkeypox outbreak. monkey pox. CAMP Rehoboth announced that it has been identified as one of two additional sites for vaccinations in addition to what the Ministry of Health provides from its health centers.

Rehoboth is among many places in the US where gay men are expected to flock to celebrate, with Fire Island and Provincetown on the East Coast making monkeypox vaccinations in high demand at a time when the Biden administration is under fire not to make them more widely available. (However, gay cruises for the summer may not be one of those events. A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said the charter team has no upcoming LGBTQ cruises.)

Brad Perkins, Chief Medical Officer of Karius, Inc., when asked about proper guidance for these late summer events, advised “try to encourage community awareness and responsibility to isolate yourself and not infect others if you think you have been exposed or know you are infected.

“But the longer game here is that we don’t want this disease to become endemic in the United States,” Perkins added. “And I think there’s a short-term threat, there’s a long-term threat, both are really important. [and] I think that should weigh in on decisions like the one you’re suggesting people have to make.

Perkins said Karius, which works on advanced molecular technology for the diagnosis of infectious diseases, is seeking to apply cell-free microbial DNA technology to create monkeypox tests sooner than currently available options, which require a sample of already developed skin lesions. The proposed test has detected the virus in hospitalized patients, Perkins said, and further research over the next few months could be available on an outpatient basis.

In Rehoboth, Combs said CAMP Rehoboth, following work with state officials, is on track to obtain 200 doses of JYNNEOS vaccine and, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, plans to distribute them in a two-dose schedule, with the first dose set for August 23 and the second for September 28. On Tuesday, Combs said CAMP Rehoboth has already scheduled appointments for 135 injections in the two-dose schedule, more than two-thirds of the total injections available.

“We are in talks with the state to [see] if they are able to get additional doses to create a larger vaccination site that can get more people vaccinated,” Combs added. “Right now it’s one person every five minutes – over a nine to three hour period – and that’s the rate based on the number of doses. But if we can get more, we’ll do more, and we’ll tell the state.

Many of these late summer events consist of gay men engaging in shirtless dancing in close proximity to each other as well as other intimate contact, creating ideal opportunities for a disease transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. skin.

Be honest: Although participants do not engage in sexual activity as part of these events per se, they may lead to sexual encounters afterwards with a causal partner (or causal partners if those participants choose to have group sex to end the night).

The CDC has guidance on its website for safer sex and social gatherings amid the monkeypox outbreak, which suggests that festivals, events and concerts where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to sharing skin-to-skin contact is safer, while being aware of activities (even kissing) that can spread monkeypox. Closed spaces, such as private and public sex parties where intimate and often anonymous sexual contact with multiple partners occurs, according to the CDC, may have a higher likelihood of spreading monkeypox.

During the COVID outbreak, many group events required proof of vaccination and were even canceled in an effort to mitigate the spread of the dangerous and potentially deadly disease. However, the same cannot be said for the events of the monkeypox epidemic, where the disease can be painful, but not fatal, and the availability of vaccines has not kept pace with demand.

Combs said he was not aware of any canceled events in Rehoboth due to monkey pox and, in fact, his biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual Sundance Dance Party is on the set to take place over Labor Day weekend. Additionally, Combs said he couldn’t foresee a proof of vaccination requirement “largely because vaccine availability is so hard to come by right now, and there’s…high demand and low supply.” “.

“We certainly understand what has worked well with COVID, and that has been getting information out to the public about how this virus is transmitted and providing as much access to vaccines as possible,” Combs said. “So the only thing that’s different is that the number of vaccines available seems to be much lower, so I know there’s a lot of pressure on government at all levels to make sure that they’re getting more supply to meet the demand that seems to be there.”

Perkins, asked if the precautions taken during COVID would be appropriate for monkeypox, made a distinction between the two diseases, noting that “the kind of positive take on monkeypox is that we are somewhat prepared for this threat, primarily through efforts to prepare for smallpox.”

“Certainly, the most relevant I think the community at this point is if you believe you have been exposed, or, particularly if you have been exposed and are ill, get vaccinated, access the available vaccine, or at least discuss vaccination as prophylaxis or at least, if not prophylaxis, prevention of infection, at least lessening the severity of disease if it occurs,” Perkins said. “I think as you know, this is one of the good news of the efforts that have been made so far.”

Although to date transmission of monkeypox has been overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men, Perkins predicted this could change.

“We’re actually starting to see more cases outside of that circle,” Perkins said. “I expect that to increase unless we get this outbreak under control. I think it will be a certainty in the future that we will see a wider distribution of cases, because certainly the transmission of this infection, unlike HIV…includes routes of transmission that are not sexual.

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Raymond I. Langston