Monkeypox on Vancouver Island: Vaccination campaign begins

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Health officials on Vancouver Island will begin offering monkeypox vaccines to at-risk populations this week in an effort to prevent further transmission of the rare virus.


In an update on its website, Island Health says it is starting a “targeted vaccination campaign” for those currently at highest risk, specifically men who have sex with men.


The health authority says vaccine supplies are limited, so it will be offering shots to people 18 and older who identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men – or as transgender – and meet at least one of the additional criteria.


Those criteria include: having received a diagnosis of a bacterial STI in the past 2 months; having had two or more sexual partners in the past 21 days; having attended venues or other locations for sexual contact within the past 21 days; having had anonymous or casual sex in the past 21 days and engaging in sex work either as a worker or a client. Anyone who is planning to engage in any of the listed activity is also eligible.


Appointments will be available at a clinic in Victoria on Tuesday and Wednesday. The health authority is encouraging those who meet the eligibility criteria to book an appointment online. Walk-ins will not be accepted. 


Island Health says vaccine availability will be expanded to northern and central Vancouver Island during the week of July 25.


As of late June, monkeypox cases have been detected in more than 50 countries and territories outside of Africa, where it is endemic.


Most – but not all – of the recent global infections have been found among men who have sex with men, Island Health says, adding that the virus can affect anyone through close person-to-person contact.


“Stigmatizing people because of a disease is never OK,” the health authority’s website reads.


“Anyone can get or pass on monkeypox, regardless of their sexuality.”


As of Thursday, Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health were the only regional health authorities in B.C. with confirmed cases of monkeypox. There were 32 cases in the province in all, and only one of them had been publicly linked to Vancouver Island.  

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