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N.S. set to open its first pre-exposure monkeypox vaccine clinic

Click to play video: 'Canada’s monkeypox outbreak showing ‘encouraging’ signs: WHO'
Canada’s monkeypox outbreak showing ‘encouraging’ signs: WHO
The monkeypox virus can be eliminated in countries where there is no animal-to-human transmission, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday – and mentioned that this includes Canada. "It's encouraging to see a sustained downward trend in Canada," he said – Aug 31, 2022

Nova Scotia is set to open its first pre-exposure monkeypox vaccine clinic later this month for people at the highest risk of exposure to the disease.

In a release, the Department of Health and Wellness said the Halifax Sexual Health Centre will host the clinic, and vaccines are expected to be available as soon as the week of Sept. 19. More details on how and when people can book appointments will be available next week.

The province worked with the sexual health centre, as well as groups like Sexual Health Nova Scotia, prideHealth, the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, and the Community-Based Research Centre of Vancouver, to create the vaccine program.

Read more: 1st case of monkeypox confirmed in Nova Scotia resident

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In the release, Health Minister Michelle Thompson thanked the community partners, as well as department staff.

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“Their efforts are allowing us to offer protection to those at highest risk of contracting monkeypox based on what we know about the virus and how it is spread,” she said.

“This first clinic is a step in the right direction, and I’m pleased we’ll also be expanding access to the vaccine in other areas of the province to help protect those outside of HRM.”

Read more: Global cases of COVID, monkeypox trending down, but WHO warns against complacency

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The first case of monkeypox in a Nova Scotia resident was reported on Aug. 23.

The vaccination program will only be available to people who identify as a cisgender or transgender queer man, a two-spirit person or a non-binary person, who has sexual contact with a cisgender or transgender queer man, a two-spirit person or a non-binary person.

Those in the above category will need to have at least one of the following to qualify:

  • Two or more sexual partners as defined above in the last three months, or is planning to;
  • A diagnosis of a bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the last three months;
  • Attended, worked at or volunteered at an event or social venue for sexual contact, like a bath house or sex club, in the last three months, or is planning to;
  • Had anonymous sex in the last three months, or is planning to;
  • Engaged as a worker or client in sex work, or is planning to.

The clinic will also be open to those who have had sexual contact with someone who meets the above criteria.

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Vaccines will only be available for those who meet the criteria and are residents of Nova Scotia, or someone living in the province for prolonged periods, such as those in Nova Scotia for school or work.

In the release, Halifax Sexual Health Centre executive director Abbey Ferguson said the centre was “excited” to host the vaccine clinic.

“As a 2SLGBTQ+ focused non-profit community clinic, we are thrilled that government has considered cultural competency in their vaccine delivery programming,” Ferguson said.

“Halifax Sexual Health Centre is proud to be a location that community members associate with confidentiality, safety and excellent care. We look forward to delivering this much-needed service.”

Read more: Canada’s monkeypox outbreak showing ‘encouraging’ signs, says WHO chief

Read next: Canada in ‘better shape’ than predicted in face of XBB.1.5, expert suggests

The province said it is working with the federal government to increase Nova Scotia’s supply of Imvamune, the monkeypox vaccine. As well, it said work is underway to establish more pre-exposure vaccination programs in other areas of the province.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact with an infected person, including sexual activity, direct contact with monkeypox sores, inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person, and contact with contaminated items like bedding and clothing.

Symptoms usually develop five to 21 days after exposure to the virus. Initially, it presents with fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, back pain and exhaustion. Symptoms can progress one to two days later and can include a rash or sores that usually start on the face, legs or arms, and can affect other parts of the body.

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