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Connecticut advocates and doctors want to raise awareness and reduce stigma about monkeypox

New Haven Monkeypox Vaccines
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Terry Bohonnon of Branford receives a smallpox/monkeypox vaccine at Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven, Conn., Aug. 2, 2022. Bohonnon, who runs a community health care van in New Haven, said he came to the clinic because it’s one of the few places in the state where people can get vaccinated for monkeypox.

Monkeypox vaccine is in short supply, but local Connecticut organizations are working hard to get doses to the population currently most at risk: men who have sex with men.

The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency in early August. Since then, hundreds of thousands of doses of the two-part vaccine have been freed up for access.

Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective, said her organization is fielding hundreds of calls a week about vaccines.

“One of the things that we’re making clear to people is that there are multiple sites,” Estabrook told Connecticut Public’s “Where We Live.” “If you can’t get an appointment with us that works for you, contact other sites and find a location and find a time that can work for you to be able to get the vaccine.”

People with known exposure to a positive case, or people who’ve had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks have priority for getting the vaccine, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Stigma can be a major barrier to care, said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist. She said the current strain of monkeypox stayed under the radar for so long because it circulated among LGBTQ communities in Nigeria, where being gay is illegal. Scientists believe the current monkeypox outbreak began in Nigeria.

“Some people might say, ‘Well, I’m not at risk, so why should I care?’” Gounder told “Where We Live.” “I think that’s actually really shortsighted because it’s only a matter of time before you do have spillover into other populations.”

Though the current outbreak is primarily within LGBTQ communities, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease and can spread through close contact.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented at least 59 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Connecticut and over 10,000 across the U.S.

Carmen Molina Acosta is the 2022 Dow Jones News Intern for the Accountability Project. She graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2022.