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CT clinics inundated with monkeypox vaccine requests: ‘We have had hundreds of calls today’

Originally posted at CT Insider

On Monday, 13 clinics statewide opened their phonelines for people to schedule monkeypox vaccines. They were quickly flooded by calls for the vaccine.

“We have had hundreds of calls today,” said Kim Beauregard, CEO of InterCommunity Healthcare, which has offices in East Hartford, Hartford and South Windsor. She stressed that even though call waits may be long that that people should call in ahead of time for monkey pox concerns.

“We want to triage them over the phone because we don’t want people just walking in who have symptoms because it’s contagious,” she said.

InterCommunity isn’t alone. Anchor Health Initiative, which is distributing monkeypox vaccine at its Hamden clinic, tweeted this morning that they were experiencing higher than usual hold times due to monkey pox vaccine requests.

“Today is the first day of the vaccine rollout, so things are a bit hectic right now,” wrote Michael DeWolfe, a spokesperson for Anchor Health in an email. “We’ve gotten over 200 calls just today about it.”

Community Health Center Inc. confirmed that they had experienced the rush across their entire network of clinics as people tried to get access to appointments at their six vaccine distribution sites.

“First thing this morning were already getting phone calls about it from local health departments and also from patients,” said Natalie Bycenski, the senior nurse manager and manager of the vaccine rollout for CHC. “We’ve had calls from people who are in areas that don’t have vaccines and they’re traveling 40 minutes to get the vaccine.”

More demand than vaccine

Overall, it appears that there is more demand for vaccines than supply. Bycenski said that each Community Health Center vaccine clinic received 60 doses of monkeypox vaccine, 10 of which were reserved for close contacts of known cases. In total, the CHC network received 360 of the 800 or so vaccines that were distributed statewide by the Department of Health.

Bycenski said that while she could not provide a specific number of calls, or requests for appointments, she believed that they were getting more calls for vaccine than they were able to fill.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called on the Biden administration to invoke the Defense Authorization Act to massively ramp up the production of vaccines for monkeypox.

“The World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency is a call to act,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Right now the federal government is failing to address this potential public health crisis. We need more of everything, particularly more of the vaccine.”

Blumenthal called vaccines and prevention “the coin of the realm” of infectious disease response.

“We have a 1.1 million doses, which for a two-dose regimen will only cover one-third of the at-risk population, not to mention others who may be vulnerable,” said Blumenthal. “And the fact of the matter is we are all potentially vulnerable. This disease does not care who you are.”

He emphasized that while men who have sex with men are the highest risk group that it can potentially affect anyone who comes in touch with a case.

“We are already behind the eight ball here in the state of Connecticut if we’re talking about prevention,” state Rep. Jeff Currey of East Hartford. He stressed that people coming in for vaccine appointments did not need to be U.S. Citizens or have insurance. “If you hear otherwise you need to tell us so that we can talk to the clinics and ensure prevention for our community.”

Patrick Dunn, executive director for the New Haven Pride Center said that at first the LGBTQ community thought that the state government was behind in terms of their monkeypox response. But over the past few days it was clear that the problem was coming from the federal, not state, government.

“The biggest challenge that the Department of Public Health, and state, are facing is that the federal government has not prioritized Connecticut which puts our health officials in a bind,” said Dunn. “There’s only so much you can do when you only have so many vaccines.”

Dunn said it was baffling that the federal government had not absorbed some of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, that people move, and live lives, across state lines.

“It was a real distribution miscalculation,” said Dunn, drawing a mental line to Fire Island to New York City through Connecticut to Provincetown, Mass., three major hotspots for the LGBTQ summer party scene in the Northeast. “Even if all they’re doing is dancing in a club that’s a bunch of people jammed in a tiny room.”

Dunn said he was cautiously optimistic about the state response but between the inundated phone lines and lack of vaccine he was worried.

“If we don’t speed up our response we’re going to have a much bigger problem in the long term,” said Dunn. “The last thing we need is something else that’s endemic to the United States right now.”