Allie-Brennan Calls For Swift Response To Monkeypox Outbreak
Newtown Legislative Delegation member Rep Raghib Allie-Brennan is calling for a swift and targeted response to the expanding monkeypox outbreak sweeping the nation and causing growing concern around the globe.
Allie-Brennan joined fellow lawmaker Rep Jeff Currey in support of the state Department of Public Health, which on July 28 announced the launch of a new program to administer doses of the monkeypox vaccine.
“With the steady increase of monkeypox cases here in Connecticut and across the US, it is critical that our state take swift action to ensure those most at risk of exposure to monkeypox have immediate access to vaccination,” the lawmakers said in their joint statement. “While anyone can be affected by the virus, an overwhelming majority of monkeypox cases are concentrated in men who have sex with men. We’re pleased to see the state is prioritizing this group in its vaccine rollout.”
Allie-Brennan and Currey thanked DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani and her team for advising them, along with other state leaders, and LGBTQ+ focused organizations over the last few weeks, and coordinating public education and outreach initiatives, offering testing, facilitating treatment, and making the monkeypox vaccine available.
“As evidenced by the state’s nation-leading response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut has the tools and operational framework to quickly address the recent outbreak and limit further community spread,” the statement continued. “Working to safeguard at-risk populations and combat the stigma surrounding monkeypox will ensure patients have access to dignified care while also protecting public health.”
While Connecticut is implementing a comprehensive response strategy, containing the virus depends on a concerted effort at the state, national, and international levels, Allie-Brennan noted.
“There is a short period of time to minimize widespread transmission of the virus and we urge Connecticut’s federal delegation to work with federal leaders to secure additional vaccine doses and testing resources,” the joint statement concluded.
On Monday, August 1, 15 providers across the state began making monkeypox vaccines available to people who met qualifying criteria. On that same date, the Newtown Health District also created a localized information page that is linked through the municipal website — newtown-ct.gov.
The expanded provider network was announced as Connecticut’s monkeypox case count approached two dozen. By August 2, that number had increased to 35.
The cases have been reported across five counties, and all were men, the majority aged 20 to 49. Most occurred in men who identified as LGBTQ+, officials with the state Department of Public Health said.
Eligibility & Vax Locations
Connecticut has received 1,778 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, and more are expected. According to recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the eligibility criteria for the monkeypox vaccine includes:
*Persons identified by state and local public health as being close contacts to someone who has tested positive for monkeypox (must be Connecticut resident)
*Connecticut residents, regardless of immigration status, who meet the following criteria:
*Men who have sex with men, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary AND
*Age 18 or older AND
*Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days
Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria should especially consider getting vaccinated if:
*Their partners are showing symptoms of monkeypox, such as a rash or sores
*They met recent partners through online applications or social media platforms (such as Grindr, Tinder or Scruff), or at clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas or other large gatherings
*They have a condition that may increase their risk for severe disease (HIV or another condition that weakens your immune system, history of atopic dermatitis or eczema)
Vaccines will be available by appointment only at the following community-based clinics:
*Circle Care Center in Norwalk
*Community Health Center in Danbury, Middletown, Enfield, New London, Clinton, Stamford
*Planned Parenthood in Willimantic, Norwich, and Bridgeport
*Community Health and Wellness in Torrington
*Intercommunity in Hartford
*Anchor Health Initiative in Hamden
*Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven
*Staywell Health Center in Waterbury
To schedule an appointment, eligible persons can call one of the locations directly. Eligible patients do not need to be existing patients to get vaccinated.
Prioritizing Access, Addressing Stigma
Those who believe they were exposed to monkeypox, or have questions about the vaccine or virus, should call their health care provider or an urgent care center prior to visiting to ensure the facility has the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for testing.
The state has a limited supply of vaccine doses, and the state is prioritizing access to those who are at higher risk of being exposed to the virus.
The CDC recommends isolation from two to four weeks, when symptoms have resolved, including full healing of the rash with new skin formation. If this is not possible, individuals should make sure their lesions are covered and wear a well-fitting mask.
Those who are experiencing respiratory issues and/or fever should continue isolating until symptoms begin to subside.
“We’ve seen over the last many weeks how this infection has expanded its scope and started to affect the citizens of Connecticut,” said Juthani. “Anybody who has skin-to-skin contact with somebody who has had monkeypox could potentially get monkeypox. This is not primarily a respiratory disease. It is one that with prolonged face-to-face contact with somebody is possible, but it’s primarily transmitted by skin-to-skin.
“What we’ve seen so far is that there have been no fatalities in the United States, there have been no health care workers who have gotten monkeypox from an exposure to-date,” Juthani said. “There’s been nobody on an airplane who’s been exposed to somebody who had monkeypox, who has been infected. These are promising signs, at least in terms of being able to follow and identify cases, and then being able to take care of people appropriately.”
As awareness of monkeypox is raised in Connecticut and elsewhere, LGBTQ+ advocates said state leaders and others must also work to fight any stigma associated with the illness.
“We all need to play a role in sharing information as widely as possible. And we all need to play a role to stop the ugliness of stigma and shame and name calling that already has been happening, especially so that it doesn’t escalate,” said Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective.
Information about monkeypox is available on the CDC’s monkeypox webpage and the DPH monkeypox webpage: portal.ct.gov/dph/epidemiology-and-emerging-infections/ct-monkeypox .
CTMirror reporting by Jenna Carlesso was used in this report.