SF AIDS Foundation vaccinates 500 people for monkeypox at special event

ByAnser Hassan via KGO logo
Monday, July 18, 2022
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San Francisco AIDS Foundation administered 500 monkeypox vaccines at a special event held at its Castro neighborhood clinic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hundreds lined up at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation clinic in the Castro neighborhood to get the monkeypox vaccine at a special vaccination event put on by the organization on July 17.

"We have over 3,000 people on our waiting list. We are (vaccinating) 500 today. That is going to take a little chunk out of it, but we have a long way to go, which is why we need more vaccines," said Russell Roybal, chief advancement officer at San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Roybal said that as infection rates increase across the city, one way to get ahead of it is through vaccines, which are in short supply across the country.

Those in line were there by appointment only. Rick Betita was one of them. The way he puts it, getting vaccinated is about much more than just taking personal responsibility.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about monkeypox origins, infections, vaccines, and treatment

"I think it is important for our community to look out for ourselves and do whatever we can to make sure that monkeypox doesn't spread," said Betita.

San Francisco currently has almost 50% of all monkeypox infections in the state. Roybal says his staff sees one to two cases of monkeypox every day at the Castro clinic.

The city only has about 3,000 vaccines. It is expected to get 4,000 new doses this week. But that is still well below the 35,000 total doses that has been requested by public health officials from the federal government.

"Folks have been sounding the alarm for months now - for months. And the fact that it is going to take until the end of the year to get a million-and-a-half to 2 million doses out and available for folks is frightening. It's frightening," said Gary McCoy, senior co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LBGTQ Democratic Club.

His organization was a part of a protest rally on July 18 that took place at the San Francisco regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

VIDEO: Marin Co. confirms 2 new monkeypox cases as CDC addresses data, concerns nationally

Activists say they are demanding that the department "immediately, and with urgency, step up supply distribution of the monkeypox vaccine."

Although monkeypox is impacting mostly men who have sex with men, many community leaders are concerned that the LGBTQ community will be blamed for the emerging crisis.

"We also don't want people to be afraid of having sex. We fought a long time in the HIV/AIDS movement to be stigmatized for the sex that we have, and so we don't want to this outbreak to relitigate that conversation," says Roybal.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) says monkeypox is another example in which the U.S. was not prepared to handle a public health emergency.

"Vaccination is how we are going to control this outbreak. If we don't control it, it could become endemic, so in other words, a permanent virus in our country," said Wiener. "We will get more vaccines - not as quickly as we want - but we have to make do with the supply we are getting."

RELATED: SF leaders fear 'uncontrolled monkeypox spread' as frustration grows over federal response

Wiener said San Francisco and New York City are the epicenters of the U.S. outbreak. As he explains, it is in the national interest to prioritize resources to cities like San Francisco.

"Because if San Francisco spirals, it is not going to stay in San Francisco. It is going to move elsewhere. Same in New York City. So we need to go where the outbreaks are worst, and get it under control," he said.

Weiner spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday about monkeypox. He said Pelosi is advocating to federal health agencies to move faster on the vaccine front.

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