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White House to boost monkeypox vaccination through large LGBTQ events

White House to boost monkeypox vaccination through large LGBTQ events

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced plans to expand the response to the monkeypox outbreak by providing vaccinations and education at large LGBTQ-centered events around the country following a recent pilot program carried out in Charlotte, N.C.

Demetre Daskalakis, deputy director for the White House’s national monkeypox response, stated during a briefing that the administration was aiming to make its response more “intentional and targeted.”

“Given the progress we’ve made toward making the tools available to end this outbreak, our vaccine strategy is to meet people where they seek services, care or community — especially in communities of color. We know that Prides and other large LGBTQI+ focused events can do just that,” Daskalakis said.

Daskalakis said the pilot program that recently took place at Charlotte Pride was a “great success.” Similar programs will be carried out at upcoming events such as Atlanta Black Pride Weekend and Southern Decadence, a nearly weeklong annual LGBTQ festival in New Orleans.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) praised the administration’s involvement in the monkeypox response in his state, especially with regard to the upcoming Southern Decadence festival. Edwards shared that the federal government had sent an additional 6,000 doses of vaccines for monkeypox to be administered at the celebration.

The Louisiana governor noted that this year will mark the first time that Southern Decadence has been celebrated since 2019, having been canceled the past two years due to COVID-19 risks.

“We are expecting tens of thousands of people in New Orleans over this Labor Day weekend. And so being able to prepare for that and to get a head start on the vaccinations, on the testing, on the communications — all extremely important,” Edwards said.

The White House also announced it was launching a new “equity intervention pilot program” that will aim to directly reach queer communities of color in smaller-scale communities that may face obstacles to obtaining vaccines. This program will “earmark” an additional 10,000 vials of vaccines to be allocated to smaller equity intervention programs.

“We know jurisdictions have already centered equity in their work, but we want to provide additional support to foster even greater innovation in vaccine outreach and education of the communities most at risk,” said Daskalakis.

During the briefing, the administration responded to the reported death of a person in Texas who had tested positive for monkeypox. The Texas individual was reported to be severely immunocompromised. Although the cause of death is still being determined, this is believed to be the first case of a monkeypox patient dying in the U.S. during the current outbreak.

Jennifer McQuiston, an outbreak and zoonotic disease specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said her agency has been in contact with both Texas and Harris County, where the death was reported. McQuiston emphasized that deaths due to monkeypox are extremely rare.

“It’s serious and our hearts certainly go out to this family who have lost a loved one. And while we are doing further investigation to find out what role monkeypox may have played, it’s important to focus that we have mitigation measures in place to prevent monkeypox,” said McQuiston.