NYC will receive more monkeypox vax doses, but health commissioner says ‘we need to keep pushing’

New York City will receive another 14,500 doses of the Monkeypox vaccine from the federal government this week, the health department said on Monday.

The department also distributed the remaining 2,500 doses from the last shipment at New York City’s temporary vaccine clinics at the Central Harlem Sexual Health Clinic, the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic and the Corona Sexual Health Clinic, officials said. The next wave of new appointments will go online Tuesday at 1 p.m., on the health department’s website. Half of those will be available online, and the other through direct referrals from providers for higher risk New Yorkers.

The additional doses come as the city health department faces growing criticism about its handling of the vaccination distribution so far. When the first 1,000 doses arrived last month, appointments were gone within hours. Then last week, another shipment of 6,000 doses was met with technical difficulties that caused an appointment scheduling nightmare for some hoping to schedule their shot. When they were finally online, they were also gone within minutes.

“This is far, far too little,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in a tweet after the technical glitch last week. “We need the feds to dramatically up our allocation ASAP.”

New York City has become the epicenter for the virus. Cases have doubled in a week, with 223 positive orthopoxvirus cases as of Monday, nearly 25% of the cases in the U.S., which has a total of 866 cases. Health officials have said that due to the delay in testing, numbers are likely much higher.

The state total as of Monday was at 238 cases, the city health department said, including seven in Westchester, four in Suffolk, one in Nassau, one in Sullivan, one in Chemung and one in Rockland counties.

To address increasing concerns about the outbreak, city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett delivered a briefing at a town hall on Monday.

“I think we need to really power up our vaccination supply if we’re going to start to make inroads. And we’re grateful to the partnership we’ve had from the federal government for that to date, but we need to keep pushing,” Vasan said.

Health officials have gone to great lengths to stress in their messaging that anyone can get monkeypox, but that the current outbreak started, and is spreading primarily, amongst gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men. For that reason, that’s the population currently being targeted for vaccination.

“By now, we should have learned our lesson that things don’t stay where they start, and we need everyone to be alert,” Bassett said, referencing the ongoing efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. “But right now, the overwhelming majority of cases are currently men who have sex with men and it’s particularly important that we ensure that people know what they can do to protect themselves and this community.”

Bassett said the U.S. was caught flat-footed and unprepared when the virus started spreading. According to Bassett, the federal government stockpiled the vaccine out of a concern that smallpox would be used as a bioterrorism threat, failing to consider the spread of monkeypox.

“The supplies were never never envisioned this, despite the fact that monkey pox was endemic in eight or more countries in West and Central Africa,” Bassett said. “Part of why we’re here is because we’ve overlook the fact that we are indeed in a global world, that monkeypox could come and affect us all, and that’s a lesson that we seem to need to keep learning as a nation.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams penned a letter to President Joe Biden this week with an urgent call for more doses of the vaccine, the New York Post reported.

“While we appreciate the approximately 7,000 vaccine doses that have been sent to New York City thus far, and the approximately 14,500 doses we expect to receive by the end of the week, we urgently need need far more to slow the spread and protect at risk populations,” the letter read, according to the report.

Monkeypox is spread through intimate skin to skin contact and often characterized by lesions throughout the body and its symptoms include swollen lymph glands, chills, fever, and fatigue. For more information on monkeypox, visit the city’s website here.

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