Gay and bisexual men in New York City who are at a ‘high risk’ of catching monkeypox are being offered a vaccine to protect against the infection.
Nearly 30 cases of the rash-causing virus, which is usually only spotted in Africa, have been detected in The Big Apple so far. Almost all have been among men who have sex with men.
In a bid to stem the rising case tally, the New York City Health Department opened a clinic Thursday to roll out the two-dose Jynneous vaccine — which is 85 percent effective against infection — to control the outbreak.
It is being offered to men aged 18 and over who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners over the last 14 days.
More than 100 people queued up for the jab today at Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic, Manhattan, as it opened at 11am. Within three hours the city was forced to suspend walk-in appointments because of demand.
The clinic now has all its appointments booked until Monday, with health officials saying they hope to make more slots available ‘soon’. Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, says the city has only been allocated 1,000 doses so far.
It comes two days ahead of Pride celebrations in the city, which are expected to draw crowds numbering more than two million people.
New York City health officials are yet to announce any further guidance for the weekend, while areas also holding Pride celebrations including Chicago and San Francisco say they will distribute fliers and make ‘public service announcements’ over the disease.
Vaccines are being offered at the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic (pictured). As many as 100 people reportedly queued outside for the jab today, prompting the city to shelve plans for walk-in appointments just three hours later
The above map shows states that have detected cases of monkeypox, and the tally by state. The red numbers show the change in cases over the last 24 hours
Monkeypox vaccinations are being administered at the clinic between 11am and 7pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, officials say.
They have not revealed how they are determining whether patients have sex with men or have had multiple sexual partners, although this is likely being done through a questionnaire.
The Jynneous vaccine — which uses a weakened virus — sees patients receiving two injections 28 days apart.
US boosts monkeypox testing in bid to speed diagnoses
The Biden administration has started shipping monkeypox tests to commercial laboratories, in a bid to speed diagnoses for suspected infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sending swabs to labs including Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare.
It said this would significant expand the nation’s capacity to test for monkeypox.
Previously, testing has largely been confined to public health labs, which combined have a capacity of about 8,000 tests per week.
‘All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases’, said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.
‘Thankfully we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America.
‘By dramatically expanding the number of testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so.’
It was designed to fight smallpox, but health officials say it can also work against monkeypox because the two viruses are similar.
After running out of slots today, the Department said: ‘We hope to make more appointments available soon.
‘We are in talks with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain more doses and are looking into how we can boost our capacity citywide.’
New York is one of the first city’s in America to start rolling out monkeypox vaccines more widely.
The city — along with others including San Francisco — had already been offering the jabs to close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases.
Announcing the roll-out today, mayor Eric Adams said: ‘As I have said since day one, we are prepared, not panicked and this monkeypox vaccination site is one more critical tool to keep New Yorkers healthy.
‘Starting today, eligible New Yorkers who may have been exposed to monkeypox can now get vaccinated to stay safe and slow the spread.’
America has now spotted a total of 156 cases of the virus nationwide in almost half of its states.
But experts fear many more cases are currently going undetected because they have been mistaken for other diseases or due to problems accessing testing.
New York City has the biggest outbreak out of any metropolis nationwide.
At a state level California has the biggest outbreak with 40 cases, followed by the state of New York and Illinois with 19.
The Biden administration today announced it was rolling out swabs for the disease to commercial laboratories in an attempt to speed up diagnosis and control measures.
It comes as America gears up for yet more Pride celebrations this weekend across major cities.
Chicago health officials have said they will put a ‘special emphasis’ on Pride in their warnings this weekend, and have printed off fliers to be handed out at events on protecting yourselves against monkeypox.
San Francisco has also said it will be making ‘public service announcements’ during Pride in the city — expected to draw crowds of more than 500,000 — to remind people to stay safe.
Most people who catch monkeypox suffer a mild infection that clears up within four weeks.
But statistics suggest about one in 100 people who are infected face a serious illness that results in their death.
The disease is primarily transmitted through physical contact with infectious skin lesions, or through touching clothes and bedding that came into contact with a patient.
In rare cases, it can also be transferred through ‘sustained’ face-to-face contact the CDC says.
Infected people are tending to experience rashes around the genital and anal areas as a first symptom, before the rash spreads to the rest of the body. They may also face flu-like symptoms.