Monkeypox vaccine offered to gay men in Atlanta, clinic booked within hours

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 7:55 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A monkeypox vaccine will soon to be available in Atlanta, but not for everyone. The number of cases of the rare virus is growing in Georgia - now at fourteen. That puts the peach state in the top 10 for U.S. states with the most monkeypox cases.

The Fulton County Health Department is racing to get people vaccinated. Their holding a vaccine clinic this weekend, with a focus on the gay community. The World Health Organization says monkeypox is spreading in this group right now, but health officials point out that anyone can get the virus.

Les Underwood identifies as gay. He says the gay community is used to being on the frontlines.

“We as gay men are more prone to becoming vaccinated because we learned our lesson,” said Underwood.

Underwood was quick to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and says he’ll get jabbed for monkeypox too. After all, this isn’t the first public health crisis he’s dealt with.

“I’m old enough to remember Polio. I survived the HIV crisis in the 80′s. The government didn’t respond, but gay men got together, and we realized we have got to do something ourselves,” he said.

Fast forward decades later, gay men are stepping up once again. This time due to the monkeypox virus. Currently there are more than 600 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. Here in Georgia that number is at fourteen. Health officials say they’re seeing the virus spread in the gay community, but men who have sex with men aren’t the only ones at risk.

“It’s only a matter of time before these spreads in the rest of the population. Monkeypox can be really deadly and dangerous in pregnancy to the fetus, the mom and the newborn,” Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist, told CBS News.

The Fulton County Health Department is holding vaccination clinic this weekend with a focus on gay men. Within hours of posting on social media, their clinic was booked - all 150 slots.

Underwood said he worries the gay community is once again being stigmatized, but he said the gay community will work to stay ahead of any virus.

“We’re getting vaccinated because we have a chance to nip it in the bud,” said Underwood.

Monkeypox symptoms include - Rash with blisters on face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, and/or genitals. You can also experience a fever.

Health officials say in order to stop the spread of the virus you need to isolate at home, talk to your doctor, and get vaccinated when you can.

More vaccine clinics are planned once the county receives more of the vaccine.