Louisiana receives thousands of monkeypox doses ahead of Southern Decadence

By: - August 30, 2022 8:24 pm

The Biden administration has started targeting LGBTQ+ festivals across the nation, such as Southern Decadence, with supplemental monkeypox vaccine and testing resources. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Louisiana has received thousands of additional doses of monkeypox vaccine in anticipation of Southern Decadence in New Orleans, one of the largest gatherings of gay and bisexual men in the country.

The Biden administration has started targeting LGBTQ+ festivals across the nation with supplemental monkeypox vaccine and testing resources. Southern Decadence is expected to attract between 100,000 and 300,000 visitors from all over the country over Labor Day weekend.

The federal government has allocated 1,500 additional vials of vaccine to Louisiana for the event. Medical professionals can extract up to to five doses from each vial, and state officials believe Louisiana will be able to provide up to 6,000 extra vaccine shots with this allotment. 

The vaccine will be distributed at 12 community events in New Orleans and a large vaccine event held at Louis Armstrong Park, on the edge of the French Quarter, from Thursday through Monday.

Those eligible for monkeypox vaccination in Louisiana include men who have sex with men, transgender women who have sex with men and nonbinary people who were assigned the male sex at birth and have sex with men. Targeted vaccine candidates are those who have had sexual or intimate contact with multiple partners in the past two weeks. 

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Louisiana’s extra vaccine doses are only about a third of what the state originally requested to handle Southern Decadence. In July, the state asked for 15,000 additional monkeypox vaccine shots in anticipation of the festival, but the United States was struggling with a vaccine shortfall at the time.

Louisiana is only receiving the extra vaccine because federal health officials have chosen to stretch lean vaccine reserves by divvying up each initial vaccine dose – which comes one per vial – as much as five ways. Officials assert that smaller monkeypox vaccine doses can provide effective protection, as long as the shots are administered directly under the skin.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal but often extremely painful and can leave scarring. Most infections in the United States have been found in men who have sex with men, though anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can contract the disease.

In Louisiana, there have been 181 monkeypox cases confirmed, 73% of which were found in New Orleans or the parishes immediately surrounding it. 

Almost all of the state’s cases, 95% of them, have been diagnosed in men and the majority of the infections, 59%, have been in the Black community, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The people most likely to be infected in the state so far are 30 to 49 years old, according to the agency. 

The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact, and some researchers now believe it may also be spread through sex itself, according to The New York Times. Health experts warn that condoms may not protect against monkeypox, because it isn’t necessarily spread through semen and other bodily fluids. 

People with monkeypox can have a rash, flu-like symptoms or swollen lymph nodes. It was originally thought that people without active monkeypox symptoms couldn’t spread the disease, but now researchers are questioning whether asymptomatic spread is also possible, according to The New York Times. An active infection can keep people isolated and out of work for up to four weeks. 

A vaccine dose can sometimes protect a person from monkeypox – or at least lessen the symptoms of monkeypox – if it is administered after exposure. Health officials are also planning vaccine drives for Tuesday, Sept. 6, the day after Southern Decadence ends.

CrescentCare health clinic will have 150 walk-in monkeypox vaccine appointments from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. that day for people who are worried that they could have been exposed to the virus over the weekend. The Phoenix Bar in New Orleans will also have vaccine appointments available from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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