(CNN) A shortage of the monkeypox vaccine in the United States has led to hours-long waits and blocked lines, according to state and local public health officials. ; some people with symptoms of monkeypox go without testing or treatment. And some even crossed the Canadian border to seek help, officials said.
They, along with the leaders of several national LGBTQ organizations, were outraged by the federal government’s “lack of urgency” regarding the outbreak.
They said they feel the government has neglected them and they want the monkey disease to be declared a public health emergency now.
“We are, again, in a time when the lack of urgency and inadequate response has left our society filled with fear, unanswered questions and valid anger. Sometimes the lack of action ignores us,” Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the company. San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said Tuesday.
The hospital his foundation manages has a waiting list of 10,000 people who are eligible for the smallpox vaccine.
“This is unacceptable and completely preventable,” TerMeer said. “Our resilient community is standing up again to support each other, to educate each other and to fight for the resources they need and deserve.”
Monkeypox can infect anyone, but the majority of those infected in the United States have been among men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men, and people who identify as having sex with men. change gender.
Since June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has made a concerted effort to educate and inform the LGBTQ community.
The agency said it has worked with local pride committee managers to raise awareness. He released an educational video, with organizations that work with different health care and industries whose employees may be infected with meningitis, and created an awareness campaign on Instagram and and on dating apps popular with the gay community like Scruff, Adam4Adam and Grindr. The agency also plans to engage in hearings with LGBTQ community groups.
But those efforts haven’t shortened vaccine lines or eliminated the extensive paperwork needed to access drugs.
In an effort to ramp up the public health response, California, Illinois and New York have declared a public health emergency, as has the World Health Organization. San Francisco became the first major US city to declare a state of emergency last week, and New York City did the same on Saturday.
The federal government is monitoring how the smallpox outbreak will be handled across the country, and will use that to consider whether to declare it a public health emergency, said the Secretary of the Ministry of Health and American Public Works Xavier Becerra last week.
“We have made vaccinations, tests and medicines more than the amount required at the moment, for all the agencies that manage the public health system,” he said.
“We will consider any decision regarding the declaration of a public health emergency based on the response we are seeing across the country. In short, we need to remain at and we can end this outbreak.”
Torrian Baskerville, director of AIDS and health equity at Human Rights Watch, an LGBTQ+ rights group, said community members shouldn’t have to create their own online tracking system to track when and where vaccinations are available. prevention and treatment because. of not getting information from the local authorities.
“Our system is not designed to respond to these emergencies properly, especially when it affects the poor and the majority of the population,” Baskerville said.
He talked to many family members who did not get the help they needed to treat the disease or to prevent the painful infection in some cases.
A man with symptoms of meningitis told Baskerville that he had been turned away from his local health department, denied testing and treatment because there were no appointments left, even though he arrived during hospital hours. .
A man tells Baskerville that he is facing expulsion. Unable to work, quarantined with monkeypox symptoms for more than 25 days, he said he was denied sick leave three times and had to spend five more days in quarantine because he still had symptoms.
Another told him they had to lie about the number of recent sexual partners they had because some state and local health departments offered vaccines, giving them only to people who have had three or more partners in the past two weeks.
“The frustrations and concerns of gay and bisexual, bisexual and transgender people, right now, [Monkey’s] most affected are very real and clear,” Bakersville said.
Many public health experts say the United States blew its chance to contain the monkeypox virus because it was slow to act.
Access to antibiotics has been a struggle since the outbreak reached the United States two months ago. The CDC estimates that about 1.5 million people are eligible for the vaccine, but as of Thursday, the US Department of Health and Human Services said, more than 340,000 doses had been administered.
As of Monday evening, the United States counted at least 5,811 confirmed or probable cases of the virus, a number that experts say is still uncertain.
With limited supply and increased awareness of the virus and its effects over a period of time, the promises of prevention are moving fast.
David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Association of STD Directors, said Tuesday that the association invited directors of public health clinics from around the country to a meeting with the Biden administration on Monday to discuss how this Part of the outbreak of smallpox is also felt. used to The management of meningitis is similar to the early days of HIV and Covid-19, he said.
“Program after program talks about the fear and stigma gay men face about syphilis, the lack of vaccinations, the burned-out workforce, the lack of funding to cover what has been an unexpected public health emergency. ,” he said. he said.
Harvey said his group is happy the White House appointed some leaders to fight the virus on Tuesday, but the community needs the federal government to declare an emergency to bring in more money and staff.
He also called the outbreak of the disease “uncontrollable” and added that it is something that many public health leaders have warned will happen if the federal government does not take urgent action.
Also, Congress must quickly approve the 21 billion dollar economic bill, he said, because local health officials need more money and the country needs to reduce and remove barriers to testing, care, prevention and support.
Harvey was particularly critical of Becerra, who said at a press conference last week that “everyone has to toe the line. Everyone has to do their job” and that local jurisdictions require “collaborate” with HHS on reporting information about their status. they use vaccines.
Becerra said there is a need for the community to work to prevent the spread of smallpox and distribute vaccines. Without this work, additional prevention will be necessary.
“But if everyone does their part,” he said, “can we not only continue to prevent the virus, but end this outbreak? Absolutely.”
Harvey thinks local health leaders continue to do what they can with the resources they have.
“Indeed, states and local governments are left to respond to many aspects of this epidemic on their own. This is contrary to what Secretary Becerra said last week, when he seemed to blame the states and cities for not responding properly. “he said. “Dear secretary, we are in the country of the Americans today. And this is a public health failure that followed the Covid and early days of AIDS in this country. It is time to turn this situation around.”