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New Yorkers scramble to get monkeypox vaccine

Posted at 9:48 PM, Jul 19, 2022

Complete chaos is what some New Yorkers have called the process of getting monkeypox vaccines in the city.  

Albert Lewitinn, a New York media executive, is one of a handful to get the first shot and, like others, is uncertain he will get the second one.

"When I went to get the shot, they said to me, well, we are not, we're not scheduling shots for the second dose because we don't know if we're going to get them."

"What?," Lewitinn said he responded.

"That doesn't mean we don't agree that a two-shot dose is ideal, but we are in an environment of extreme demand and strained supply. We believe one shot does confer significant protection, if not as much as two shots," said Ashwin Vasan, the NYC health commissioner. 

New York's Health Commissioner is working quickly, contradicting advice from the FDA and CDC where the vaccine is meant to be given in two doses, with the second jab administered 28 days after the first to be fully effective. 

"The process was a nightmare in a lot of ways," Lewitinn said.  

All appointments were gone within seven minutes. 

"There were constant glitches. And then when the vaccines became available, you had to go on as if you were looking for concert tickets," he continued.  

Community-based organizations are extremely concerned, calling vaccine distribution inequitable.

Anthony Fortenberry is a registered nurse and the chief nursing officer at Callen-Lorde.

"It's a very small amount of vaccines, hardly enough to ensure immunity, even for the LGBTQ community alone," Fortenberry said.   

The organization focuses on LGBTQ+ and health care. Fortenberry says health officials should immediately create a stronger plan.

The majority of cases were among men who identified as gay, bisexual or men who had sex with other men. 

"Monkeypox, as we call MPV, does not discriminate against anyone," Fortenberry said.  

NEWSY'S AXEL TURCIOS: What do you think will happen if public health officials do not target — do not contain, stop this outbreak quickly and effectively?

ANTHONY FORTENBERRY: We are seeing income and housing risk for people that are unable to work during these two to four weeks of isolation. We're seeing people in extreme pain and trauma.

Fortenberry says communities of color and minorities face the highest risk.

"I don't think that our public health infrastructure has prepared us for this next outbreak, despite having been aware of those disparities," he said. 

Dashawn Usher, director of communities of color and media at GLAAD, the world's largest LGBQT+ media advocacy organization, agrees. He says education should be part of the national community outreach.  

"The biggest thing that we're probably missing is in underreporting within other communities," Usher said. "It is also thinking about like we know that there are confirmed cases of people who have monkeypox that are not within like the LGBTQ+ community. And so I think it's important to just understand that like, yes, like the highest rates are happening over here in this particular community, but it also can happen in any community."

New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she expects the state will get a major increase in monkeypox vaccines later this week.  

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