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Monkeypox vaccine eligibility expanded to more Ontario LGBTQ people, sex workers

Click to play video: 'Global monkeypox cases drop by 21% after month-long surge: WHO'
Global monkeypox cases drop by 21% after month-long surge: WHO
WATCH ABOVE: Global monkeypox cases drop by 21% after month-long surge: WHO – Aug 25, 2022

Ontario has expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine to include a broader segment of the LGBTQ population as well as sex workers.

The new guidelines from the Ministry of Health, released Wednesday, allow people who are two-spirit, nonbinary, transgender and who belong to the LGBTQ community, and anyone with partners that identify as such, to receive a single dose of the pre-exposure monkeypox vaccine if they meet certain criteria.

The criteria includes those who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, have recently had or are planning to have two or more sexual partners and those who have had anonymous sex recently or are planning to.

It also includes those who have attended events and venues for sex, such as bath houses and sex clubs, or who work or volunteer in these settings, as well as those who are sexual contacts of sex workers.

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Read more: About half of Canadians are worried about monkeypox outbreak, survey says

Previously, the priority group for the vaccine was gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who met certain criteria.

Patricia Mueller, CEO of Homes First, a company that oversees a series of shelters in Toronto, said she’s been paying close attention to the guidelines out of concern for those who use shelters, and the latest changes are “excellent.”

“I think the monkeypox strategy makes sense at this point in time,” she said.

Mueller said they have had three monkeypox cases out of 1200 clients at their shelters.

Mueller said some of her staff members have concerns, however, about whether more doses of the vaccine will be available to meet their needs.

“A lot of staff that are of a certain age … that had the smallpox vaccination, they’re all saying things like, ‘Is mine still valid?”’ Mueller said. “They have questions like, ‘Did it wear off?’ I haven’t had a definitive answer like, ‘Don’t worry.”’

Those questions have also been raised by some of her clients who are older and received smallpox vaccines in the 1960s and ’70s, she said.

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The guidelines recommend two doses of the pre-exposure vaccine for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and those who work in certain research laboratories.

Those who have already been exposed to the monkeypox virus can also receive the vaccine, but only up to 14 days from the date of last exposure, and ideally within four days.

The guidelines say those who self-identify as a high-risk contact of a confirmed or probable monkeypox case should first consult their local public health unit to see if a post-exposure vaccine is recommended.

Monkeypox spreads when people have close, physical contact with an infected person’s lesions, their clothing or bedsheets, and symptoms can include rash, swollen lymph nodes and fever.

Public Health Ontario said there were 582 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the province as of Monday, up from 529 last Wednesday.

The agency’s latest report, published Wednesday, said 437 of the confirmed cases, or about 75 per cent, are in Toronto, and all but three cases are reported among males. The average age of all confirmed cases in the province is about 36, and confirmed cases range in age from under 20 to 74.

Public health says 18 people have been hospitalized with the illness in the province and two people have been in intensive care.

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There are also seven probable cases in Ontario.

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