Toronto Public Health hosting new monkeypox vaccine clinics as eligibility expands

Amid reports several monkeypox cases involve men who have sex with men, health leaders in Toronto are working to address misconceptions about the virus and potential stigma of LGBTQ2S+ community members. Nick Westoll reports.

As scientists continue to track the presence of the monkeypox virus in Ontario and in other parts of North America, Toronto Public Health (TPH) staff will be offering a series of vaccination opportunities across the city.

Beginning on June 20 and all throughout the week, the TPH website said eligible Toronto residents will be able to receive the Imvamune vaccine at the following locations.

  • Metro Hall (216 Wellington St. W.): June 20 to 24 between 2 and 8 p.m. and June 26 between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • AIDS Committee of Toronto (543 Yonge St., fourth floor): June 21 between 1 and 7:30 p.m.
  • Cloverdale Mall (250 The East Mall): June 21 to 24 between 2 and 8 p.m., June 25 between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • City of Toronto immunization clinic (1940 Eglinton Ave. E.): June 21 to 24 between 2 and 8 p.m., June 25 between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

According to the Government of Canada, the vaccine was first developed to prevent smallpox but officials said a number of observational studies found the shot was around 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox. They also noted being vaccinated against smallpox could result in a milder case of monkeypox.

Based on Ontario Ministry of Health guidelines, TPH will offer vaccines to people who identify as a man (cisgender and transgender), and those who are gay, bisexual or a part of the men who have sex with men communities.

The individual seeking a vaccination must also meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis) within the past two months
  • Have two or more sexual partners within the past three weeks or plan on doing so
  • Work or volunteer in venues where sexual contact occurs (such as sex clubs, bath houses etc.) either in the past three weeks or plan on doing so
  • Engage in sex work or plan on doing so, or coming into sexual contact with those who do
  • Have had casual or anonymous sex or plan on doing so

If the vaccine is being used after exposure to monkeypox, officials said it should be given within four days but can be administered up to two weeks after the last exposure.

RELATED: Toronto health leaders working to stop monkeypox misconceptions, LGBTQ2S+ community stigma

According to the monkeypox data provided by Public Health Ontario on June 20, there have been 30 confirmed monkeypox cases along with three probable and 18 suspected cases since the virus was first confirmed in the province in mid-May.

Fifty-one of those individuals have been identified as males and none of the confirmed cases have, as of June 20, been detected in females. The average age of those who have been confirmed to have monkeypox is 39.

The data showed that 26 out of the 30 confirmed cases along with all of the probable and suspected have been identified by TPH.

Of those who tested positive, the symptoms most commonly reported included rashes, oral and/or genital lesions, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fever and chills, muscle aches and fatigue.

If someone thinks they have the virus, TPH encourages them to isolate themselves right away and contact a public health provider. If someone was in contact with someone who has monkeypox, they were encouraged to monitor for symptoms for three weeks.

Signs of the virus can develop anytime between five and 21 days and symptoms typically start between one and two weeks.

How is monkeypox spread?

Unlike COVID-19, officials said it does not spread as quickly or as easily. It also doesn’t spread through casual contact.

They said monkeypox typically is spread from someone infected with the virus to others through prolonged close contact and within range of respiratory droplets (breathing, talking, coughing, sneezing etc.), direct contact with lesions, blistered, rashes or bodily fluids like saliva, or contact with contaminated items such as sheets, towels or other objects and surfaces. It can enter into someone’s body through skin breaks, the eyes or the mouth. Coming into contact with infected animals is another way it can be transmitted.

“We do not know where this virus came from but it was first seen in monkeys and is mostly found in central and western Africa. More recently, the virus has been spreading in other countries, including Canada,” the TPH website said.

“Anyone can get monkeypox. However, during this outbreak, in a number of countries, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men have been affected.”

In terms of diagnosing the virus, it is done through a combination of ways including symptoms, laboratory testing and travel history.

Officials recommended a number of transmission prevention measures, such as regular hand washing, avoiding extended face-to-face contact indoors, limiting the number of close contacts, avoid sharing objects that come into close personal contact, regularly cleaning surfaces and fabrics with standard household cleaners, avoid touching bedding or laundry that someone with the virus has come into contact with and avoid touching skin lesions or rashes on another person.

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