They wear face masks and maintain social distancing from others, adhering to ground rules from the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic — when the desperate need for vaccines far exceeded what federal and state governments could supply.
However, many will leave empty-handed as local hospitals and clinics have had to rely on an inconsistent and inadequate supply of vaccines, a dilemma that has enraged patients and advocates.
San Francisco General opens the doors of the clinic at 8 a.m. and the line slowly moves forward. The hospital will distribute available doses until supplies run out.
For Cody Aarons, 31, it was his third attempt. He stood quietly with more than 100 people already in front of him.
“I was in New York for work for the past month, and I tried with their online portal system and failed to get a vaccine,” said the health worker who thought he might have a better chance in San Francisco.
But 45 minutes after the start of the daily distribution, a hospital employee came by with an announcement. “People, we’ve reached our limit for today,” he shouted. “However, we will try to find more photos for you.”
While there was no guarantee he’d get the monkeypox vaccine that day, Aarons—and just about everyone else in line—was stuck.
“People want their vaccine,” said Rafael Mandelman, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “I know one person who was in that line for four different days before he finally got his vaccination.”
Mandelman, who got up at 4:30 a.m. and waited hours before getting his vaccine days earlier, is frustrated with the rollout.
“After going through a pandemic where we were able to discover a new vaccine, [and] distributing tens of millions of doses within months, the fact that with an existing known vaccine we can’t get more than these paltry little droplets is very frustrating for people,” he said.
Desperate and anxious
For health professionals, the outbreak is a frustrating new chapter after the punishing Covid-19 pandemic.
“At the height of Covid vaccinations, we were on average 1,400 to 1,500 (doses) per day. So we are completely used to the mass vaccination process,” says nurse manager Merjo Roca.
But Roca and her collaborators are limited in what they can do because of the vaccine shortage.
San Francisco health officials initially asked for 35,000 doses, but say they’ve only gotten 12,000 from federal supplies. The state of California has informed city leaders that San Francisco will receive 10,700 more in the next allotment, but there’s no clear indication when those doses will arrive or how much will reach San Francisco General Hospital for distribution.
“I think one of our biggest challenges is really just the inconsistency of the offer,” Roca said. “Our vaccine clinic prides itself on being able to help and vaccinate people when they come through our doors. So it’s super hard for all of our staff not to be able to do that and have to turn people away and not even have information to say when will we get the next doses.”
With many of those in line fearing the rapid rise in monkey pox cases, clinic staff feel an added burden as they cannot deliver to everyone.
“It’s very hard to listen to someone explain why they want the vaccine and why they need the vaccine and we just don’t have it,” Roca added.
“It was like someone took a hole punch all over my body”
The government says it acted urgently and with the data. And there are clear differences between the response now and the response to HIV/AIDS. But some proponents say the government’s perceived lack of urgency in addressing a public health crisis affecting queer communities today reflects what gay men experienced decades ago.
Conversations between then-press secretary and reporters for then-President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and 1983 show that the country’s top officials and mainstream society viewed the disease as a joke rather than a major concern.
That stemmed from the perception of AIDS as a “gay plague” — a condition thought to be related to the lifestyle and behavior of gay men — although cases had also been reported in women, infants, people with haemophilia and those who were pregnant. injected drugs.
Now, more than 40 years later, the gay community is once again struggling with the feeling of being ostracized and neglected by their own government.
“We have a responsibility not to further stigmatize or politicize this issue because a community that has been dealing with many problems for a long time has long been marginalized in our community,” said Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Dating back to the early days of the HIV epidemic in our country, we saw our community being let down by the federal government in their response,” he said.
The foundation opened its doors in 1982 “at a time of crisis in our community, when the federal government abandoned us… there are parallels between that moment and this”, according to TerMeer.
“President Biden has called on us to explore every option on the table to fight the monkeypox outbreak and protect communities at risk,” said Robert Fenton, White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator. “We are applying lessons learned from the battles we have fought – from the COVID response to wildfires to measles – and will address this outbreak with the urgency that this moment demands.”
Monkeypox is a smallpox virus, related to smallpox and cowpox, and generally causes pimple- or blister-like lesions and flu-like symptoms such as fever, according to the CDC.
The lesions usually focus on the arms and legs, but in the latest outbreak they appear more frequently on the genital and perianal area, raising some concern that monkeypox lesions could be confused with STDs.
“I had between 600 and 800 lesions all over my body… It was like someone took a hole punch all over my body. There were points where I couldn’t walk, couldn’t touch things,” said Kevin Kwong, who recently recovered of monkeypox after diagnosis in early July.
He wrote his ordeal on social media to publicize the outbreak and now wants to focus on destigmatizing the gay community.
According to the World Health Organization, as of August 3, 25,054 cases have been confirmed by a laboratory and 122 probable cases.
But while the outbreak has disproportionately affected some gay communities, there is growing concern about the spread of the infection.
“This is a reminder that anyone, regardless of age or sexual orientation, can get monkey pox if they come in contact with the virus,” the City of Long Beach warned, following CDC guidelines that while the risk of infection in children is low, They are “more likely to be exposed to monkey pox if they live in a community or have recently traveled to a community with higher infection rates.”
“We want everyone to quickly get behind this issue,” TerMeer said. “There is an approaching time frame in which we can get ahead of the rapid spread of monkeypox in our country and that window continues to close.”
Harmeet Kaur, Augie Martin, Jen Christiansen, Carma Hassan and Carolyn Sung of DailyExpertNews contributed to this story.