PEI

Monkeypox vaccine being offered to Islanders travelling or at higher risk

There have been no reported cases of monkeypox on P.E.I. as of yet — but on Wednesday it was confirmed there are more than 1,000 cases countrywide.

LGTBQ+ community priority group in vaccine rollout

Prince Edward Island has received about 140 doses of the two-dose vaccine, according to the Chief Public Health Office. (Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press)

Monkeypox vaccinations are now being offered on Prince Edward Island.

The Chief Public Health Office says the shot is being offered to people travelling to areas where case counts are high and those who might be at a higher risk of being exposed.

"Important ways to lower risk of exposure to the virus is to decrease a person's number of sexual partners and decrease the frequency of anonymous sexual partners," said an email from the CPHO.

There have been no reported cases of monkeypox on P.E.I. as of yet — but on Wednesday, it was confirmed there are more than 1,000 cases countrywide.

Blake Caissie got his monkeypox vaccine on Tuesday afternoon. He has some travel plans coming up and is part of the LGBTQ+ community which is a priority group when it comes to the vaccine.

"Monkeypox is very similar to smallpox, right now it is prominently mainstream in the media talked about in gay men, or people who identify as male in our LGBTQ+ community," he said.

'I think if we live on a small island and we do have a lot of tourism and a lot of individuals coming and visiting, it's probably best that everybody do take the necessary precautions,' says Blake Caissie. (Submitted by Blake Caissie.)

Taking 'necessary precautions'

Caissie believes that's because gay men often get tested for other health conditions more often than other segments of the public.

"Being a single gay man on the Island, I think I am fortunate to have resources like this and as an out individual I think that is very important," he said.

To qualify for a vaccine people need to be at high risk, Caisse said, but it's not only members of that community who should protect themselves.

"Just looking over the prerequisites and the listing criteria to be eligible for this, that you will have to be at very high risk right now," he said.

"But I think if we live on a small island and we do have a lot of tourism and a lot of individuals coming and visiting, it's probably best that everybody do take the necessary precautions."

P.E.I. having the monkeypox vaccine might help others in the region, Caissie said. He has a friend in Nova Scotia who can't figure out how to get vaccinated there and hopes to be able to get the vaccine when they are visiting the Island.

Caissie also knows someone in the U.S. who has had monkeypox.

"This friend of mine, it really has affected their mental health," he said.

"While we are gay men who are predominantly experiencing this right now it does mess with your psychosis and making sure you have done everything and you are not responsible for putting yourself at risk."

'It is really important that the stigma just doesn't get stuck on the community because it does affect everyone,' says Scott Alan, men's sexual health program co-ordinator with PEERS Alliance. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

Concern about stigma

Officials with PEERS Alliance say it's an important message to get out to the LGBTQ+ community — but also important not to stigmatize the community in the process.

"We did just have Pride season. There is a lot of Pride travel. You know, this is the first time in two years that people can actually get out and meet each other and see each other," said Scott Alan, men's sexual health program co-ordinator for PEERS Alliance.

There are a lot of variables on why monkeypox is being reported in the queer community, Alan said.

"It is really important that the stigma just doesn't get stuck on the community because it does affect everyone."

140-dose supply

Monkeypox symptoms include a pox-like rash which typically follows one or more days of flu-like symptoms — fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.

"Individuals who develop symptoms of monkeypox should visit their primary care provider or the Sexual Health Clinic for testing," said the CPHO in an email.

Testing involves swabbing the rash or lesion and sending the sample to the microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg for diagnosis, the email read.

So far about 140 doses have been supplied to the province. That's enough for 70 full immunizations according to the CPHO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Davis grew up on P.E.I. and studied journalism at Holland College. He can be contacted at anthony.davis@cbc.ca

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