A pop-up clinic offering vaccination against monkeypox has been arranged to take place at a Windsor Pride event this weekend.
The clinic — provided by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in collaboration with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest — will operate during Pride Day festivities at Lanspeary Park (Langlois Avenue at Ottawa Street) on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I think it’s a good thing. We’re being pro-active,” said David Lenz, director of community development with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest.
“There are those who have voiced their concerns (about monkeypox). They want to get the vaccine.”
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the region’s acting medical officer of health, said the vaccine clinic is meant as a “pre-exposure prophylaxis” measure against monkeypox and will be the first of its kind in Windsor-Essex.
Asked why a Pride event was chosen for the region’s first distribution of monkeypox vaccine, Nesathurai was frank: “Monkeypox is a significant challenge, and it is disproportionately affecting members of our community where men are having sex with men,” he said.
“We want to distribute the vaccine in the most effective way to minimize the chance of illness among members of our community,” said Nesathurai.
“We always want to offer public health services in a way that reaches the target community.”
Felicia Lawal, the local health unit’s director of health protection, noted that the provincewide supply of the monkeypox vaccine is limited. The clinic at Lanspeary Park will be able to administer about 100 doses.
“We do have vaccine, but it is a limited quantity,” Lawal said. “It will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.”
Asked if a monkeypox vaccine clinic at a Pride event might fuel a negative perception of the LGBTQ+ community and perpetuate misconceptions about monkeypox, Nesathurai said the health unit always tries to provide services in a way “that is without judgment and stigma.
“But we also recognize … that some populations of individuals are at higher risk for certain diseases at certain times.”
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“In the context of monkeypox in Ontario, men having sex with men are at the highest risk of contracting monkeypox right now.”
As of Thursday, there were 449 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Ontario — 347 of them in the Toronto area.
Of those Ontario cases, 447 of them — 99.6 per cent — are male.
Nesathurai acknowledged that there are other places in the world where monkeypox has had more widespread transmission. “But we have to contextualize or make judgments based on what we know today. It’s no different than anything else in medicine.”
Lenz said Windsor Pride has been working closely with the health unit for months, and organizers are glad to have secured monkeypox vaccine availability for the festival.
“Not only that, but it’s an opportunity to distribute accurate information about the disease,” Lenz said.
The health unit announced on July 20 that Windsor-Essex had its first confirmed case of monkeypox.
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