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The state partners with community organizations to increase monkeypox vaccine rollout

Camp Rehoboth

The Division of Public Health has announced a total of 11 cases of monkeypox in the First State, with vaccine distribution now underway for those who meet certain criteria.

This criteria includes gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or any anonymous sexual partners, as well as transgender women or nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men.

Rick Hong is the interim director at the Delaware Division of Public Health. He says it’s important that people know monkeypox is not only affecting a single community, and can spread through other means beyond sexual contact.

“From the public health standpoint we don’t want to stigmatize certain population and really want to emphasize that there are cases out there not related to sexual contact, and that there are ways to protect ourselves beyond sexual practices,” said Hong.

As Delaware has begun more widespread distribution of monkeypox vaccine, the state is partnering with community organizations within the state.

That includes CAMP Rehoboth, a non-profit organization that promotes LGBTQ+inclusivity in the first state. Its Board President Wesley Combs adds that while many in the LGBTQ+ community worry that this disease will lead to stigmatization against them, similar to the AIDS epidemic, he believes that the state is effectively communicating who is at highest risk at the moment. And CAMP Rehoboth will continue to monitor the First State’s monkeypox response moving forward.

CAMP is holding a vaccination event August 23, and Combs says all available doses have already been claimed.

“If CAMP Rehoboth filled 200 slots in 5 hours, it’s clear we have more demand than supply,” Combs emphasized.

He adds while monkeypox can be spread other ways apart from sexual contact, CAMP Rehoboth encourages the state to partner with organizations already offering HIV testing and treatment.

“Testing staff at CAMP Rehoboth actually encouraged the state to consider expanding the monkeypox information to all places that do HIV testing within the healthcare system because it’s likely that someone is coming in HIV positive that these infections could both potentially be happening,” said Combs. “So, it could really expand the outreach to a much broader audience from an existing infrastructure they already have in place.”

Combs it's different from the COVID outbreak in the sense that those testing and vaccination sites had to be created, whereas monkeypox testing and vaccination sites could be built from existing infrastructure.

AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium also plan to host a vaccination site at the Community Service Building in Wilmington August 25, and will have 200 doses available.

The Division of Public Health asks the general public who do not meet the criteria for the vaccine to speak openly with close contacts about high-risk behaviors in order to mitigate monkeypox spread.

As school begins, students participating in Fall sports are encouraged to increase sanitation practices. And DPH is partnering with higher education institutions in the state to discuss preventative measures ahead of the Fall semester.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.