A vaccine clinic for COVID-19 and monkeypox has been set up at a church in Ward 8. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
A vaccine clinic for COVID-19 and monkeypox has been set up at a church in Ward 8. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The Monkeypox outbreak has been officially declared a national health emergency, now prompting District health officials to open a temporary clinic distributing monkeypox vaccinations in Ward 7, expanding accessibility primarily to East of the River residents. 

Previously, the District alloted two locations to distribute inoculations, both located in Northwest.  The decision to open a clinic in Ward 7 triggers questions as to how the infectious virus may be afflicting the most vulnerable demographics residing in a predominantly-Black region of the city.

“While most cases are occurring in individuals identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community, this is not a disease of that community alone,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of D.C. Health stated at a recent press conference. “Anyone can contract it and we cannot create stigma.  We encourage people to look out for symptoms.”

The zoonotic viral infection, widely speculated as a sexually transmitted disease with acute transmission through inanimate surfaces of contact with infected bodily fluid, plagues its sufferers with a cocktail of symptoms, including fever, excruciatingly painful skin, and anal ulcers, muscle aches and backaches and more. 

Department of Health’s (DOH) third clinic administering Monkeypox shots requires pre-registration for a limited amount of appointments reserved for the District’s most vulnerable to the disease, and now open to all residents, highlighting gay males or men who sleep with men, sex workers and other denominations of the LGBT community. 

However, with the District’s community demographics significantly changing, we are yet to confirm who this new clinic will be most useful to based upon the breakdown of monkeypox cases across the East of the River community, as the D.C. Department of Health has not yet disclosed. Pathogenic virologist and Microbiologist Dr. Lane Rolling, M.D., sheds light on the general trend of infection that the painful virus has exhibited thus far. 

“I think [it is] important for your audience to understand that 75 percent of the cases are [actually] White people, with 49 percent [of those cases also being] H.I.V. positive,” he said. “That shocks a lot of people because when people talk about men having sex with men, people are thinking Black folks – [however], it’s not this time around. Now are we going to have cases [specific to Black people] in the United States, yes, more than likely [because] we have areas like Atlanta, New York City, [and others where] you will probably have more of a mixture of different people affected versus the original cases in the U.K.”

Dr. Rolling’s statements spark closer observation to how the viral infection is being promoted, particularly when observing visual pieces accompanying literature covering the disease, often showing the arms, and skin of Black males when they however, are not nearly the majority of documented cases at this time. He continues to disclose the transmission risks of the virus, with emphasis to the non-sexual forms in which the disease can carry.

“When we look at the actual virus itself, it takes about 7-14 days for [people] to present symptoms.  Once those symptoms come on in 7-14 days, they can infect people anywhere from 14 days up to a month [by way of] blisters. So the whole entire time for almost 8 weeks, an individual is very contagious until those blisters on their hands are dried up. As long as they are not healed, they can infect or contaminate people. Shaking someone’s hands, touching the gas pump handles, touching the touch screens at a bank or [places] like that. So that’s why it’s very important because the virus itself is pretty sturdy which means it can live in the environment for a long, long time and infect a lot of people,” he said. 

Currently the District has more than 18,000 pre-registered residents looking to receive vaccination shots, and has administered more than 7,000 doses. The District will distribute a one dose regime due to a supply shortage, while additionally limiting recipients of the vaccine for those persons most at risk.

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