Berkeley spa criticized for using monkeypox vaccine to boost business

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ByJ.R. Stone via KGO logo
Thursday, July 14, 2022
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Some at the monkeypox vaccine distribution pop-up event at Steamworks-Baths in Berkeley say they waited double the time because they didn't pay money.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Bay Area residents are lining up, and in some cases, paying up to avoid longer lines for the monkeypox vaccine.

New details about a vaccine distribution event in Berkeley- where some patrons tell us they waited double the time because they wouldn't pay a fee.

It comes amid an urgent plea for more doses for the region. San Francisco is expected to run out of vaccines this week, as the city waits for federal supplies.

"There was an offering that if you paid to get in, there were assurances that you would get a shot and it was a shorter line," said Jon Wong who spent Wednesday waiting six and a half hours for the monkeypox vaccine. Wong described to us what he says happened outside of Steamworks-Baths in Berkeley. A location that held a pop up monkeypox vaccine clinic in partnership with City of Berkeley and others.

From SKY7, you could see hundreds of people lined up outside the location, it was open to everyone, but person after person telling us Wednesday those paying money for memberships or other fees benefited over those who did not.

VIDEO: San Francisco health officials say they're 'begging' for more monkeypox vaccines amid case increase

"There were employees of Steamworks walking around and telling folks waiting in line that if they paid to get in as a guest, they would be in a shorter line and would be allowed to wait inside," said Shaun Osburn who received his vaccine in Berkeley. Osburn didn't pay but did wait. "We waited nine and a half hours!"

"It was a little sad for the people that couldn't pay, or out of principle didn't want to pay," said one man.

City of Berkeley representatives say they have talked with management from the Steamworks-Baths location.

"They have told us that they are working to make sure that people in line know that there is no priority system," said Matthai Chakko who represents the City of Berkeley.

But even those who paid, admitted to us they benefited, and said it didn't seem fair. One man we spoke with waited four hours for a shot, half the time it took some others.

VIDEO: Many SF residents turned down for monkeypox vaccine 2 days in row amid high demand, limited supply

"The experience I had was very fortunate and I paid for it. I do think giving priority to their customers in this instance is a bit unethical," said that man.

City officials though, positive about the 500 monkeypox shots that were given out, but willing to address concerns going forward.

"It's one thing if a mistake happens once, what you absolutely don't want is a mistake to happen twice. There is clearly something that happened today that there is some misperceptions, it's hard to know exactly what happened," said Chakko.

We did reach out to Steamworks-Baths on the phone, social networks, and emails and did not get any responses. Although a bit frustrated, everyone we talked with was very grateful to get the monkeypox vaccination.

See more stories about monkeypox here.

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