Gay Pride and other select LGBTQ events will be a target for monkeypox vaccine distribution as a new pilot program to stem the spread of the virus gets underway, U.S. health authorities said Thursday. A two-dose regime is planned for those deemed at risk.
The federal government “is launching a pilot program that will provide up to 50,000 doses from the national stockpile to be made available for Pride and other events,” White House monkeypox response coordinator Bob Fenton told reporters at a special briefing.
“More shots in arms is how we get the outbreak under control,” Fenton added, before outlining the move is designed to “meet people where they are.”
At least a dozen U.S. pride events are scheduled over the next two months, including large gatherings in Atlanta and New Orleans in early September.
U.S. officials said they will send up to 2,000 additional doses to North Carolina, where the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade will be held this weekend.
Southern Decadence, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ events, is expected to attract 200,000 or more people to New Orleans over Labor Day weekend.
The Bourbon Street Extravaganza, a free concert held amid the event, has been canceled over monkeypox concerns, organizers said this week.
Frank Perez, a former grand marshal of the parade that’s the centerpiece of Southern Decadence, said a number of New Orleans gay bars have already had vaccine events, according to AP.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used the same White House briefing to issue advice of her own.
She cautioned that one-shot monkeypox vaccination will not be enough, adding, “While we are offering the vaccine at these events to those at high risk, this is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at the event will not provide protection at the event itself.”
There have been more than 39,000 cases reported in countries that have not historically seen monkeypox. The vast majority have occurred in men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can get monkeypox.
The U.S. has the most infections of any country — more than 13,500. AP reports about 98 percent of U.S. cases are men and about 93 percent were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.
Health officials are urging other steps to prevent the spread of the virus besides multiple vaccinations, including temporarily limiting sexual partners.
Also on Thursday, health officials said next week they will boost the supply of TPOXX, a drug for treating monkeypox infections, by 50,000 treatment courses.
The reopening of colleges this fall is also expected to accelerate the spread.