Health unit works to make monkey pox vaccine available

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit is working to ensure everyone eligible has access to the Monkeypox vaccine in light of the growing number of Monkeypox cases in Ontario, including the region's first confirmed case which was reported on July 27 and another probable case.The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit is working to ensure everyone eligible has access to the Monkeypox vaccine in light of the growing number of Monkeypox cases in Ontario, including the region's first confirmed case which was reported on July 27 and another probable case.

While the number of monkey pox cases in the region remains extremely low compared to the rest of the province, the local health unit is urging the public not to be complacent.

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Officer Dr. Natalie Bocking (Aug. 3) reported one confirmed and one probable – asymptomatic but not yet lab-confirmed – cases of Monkeypox.

According to the latest report from Public Health Ontario (Aug. 4), there are 449 confirmed cases; 13 have been hospitalized and two are in intensive care. No deaths have been reported yet.

Although 99.6 percent of cases across the province are male, Bocking warns that the virus can infect anyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.

The health unit has already planned three vaccination clinics for the area – August 5 and 9 in Port Hope and August 10 in Lindsay – with more being considered.

“I think it’s an evolving situation. Because we see the demand increasing, we are in constant contact with the province to look at more appointments, more clinics and then to get more vaccines here,” said Bocking. “The county is very judicious in its use of vaccines, so we really deliver to health units as soon as we know we have the demand and people are coming for the vaccine.”

Bocking added that the health unit is doing its best to ensure appointments are available. She encourages anyone who meets the eligibility criteria to make an appointment or, if none is available, contact the health department and arrangements will be made to receive the vaccine.

While the monkey pox risk remains low, Bocking has seen an increase in phone calls since announcing the first case on July 27.

“I think part of this is that when we announced our first confirmed case in (Northumberland County), it often hits people a little bit closer to home… and things expand a little bit outside of GTA,” Bocking said.

Currently, trans or cisgender individuals who identify themselves as belonging to the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community in Ontario can receive a monkeypox vaccine if they meet one of the following criteria:

•Have had or plan to have two or more sexual partners in the past 21 days.

•Have had or plan to have anonymous/casual sex in the past 21 days.

• Have been diagnosed with a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STD) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the past two months.

•Have visited or plan to visit, or work/volunteer in, locations (bathhouses, sex clubs) for sexual contact in the past 21 days.

•Sex before work or maybe planning to. Sexual contacts of these individuals are also eligible for the monkey pox vaccine.

Individuals who meet these criteria are asked to call the health unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1507, to make an appointment for the monkeypox vaccine.

After getting the vaccine, it takes two weeks to build up protection. During this time, health encourages people to reduce their number of close contacts, including sex partners.

For more information on monkeypox and vaccine suitability, visit www.hkpr.on.ca.

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