Toronto Public Health hosts 2 clinics to vaccinate against monkeypox

Toronto Public Health hosted two vaccine clinics on Saturday for those most at-risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.

Some 26 cases confirmed in Toronto out of 30 in total in Ontario

Toronto Public Health held a clinic to vaccinate against the monkeypox virus at the 519 community centre on Church Street. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Toronto Public Health hosted two vaccine clinics on Saturday for those most at-risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.

The health unit said the clinics at the 519 community centre on Church Street and Metro Hall are intended for adults who self-identify as male and who have sex with other men.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that comes from the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980, but it generally does not spread easily between people and is instead transmitted through prolonged close contact.

"We're trying to avoid the stigmatization of gay men," Rita Shahin, Toronto's associate medical officer of health, told CBC News. 

"Monkeypox is spread by close person to person contact, so close skin to skin or face to face contact, and anybody could be at risk. It just happens that the first cases we're seeing in the community has been [among] gay men."

Toronto Public Health says the virus is not as transmissible as COVID-19 is.

The health unit says symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that "often appears within a few days" after symptoms begin.

Photos taken in clinical settings show monkeypox lesions on patients in the U.K., during a global outbreak of cases beyond the virus' typical endemic regions in Africa. (U.K. Health Security Agency)

As of Friday, Toronto has confirmed 26 cases of monkeypox out of 30 in total across the province. All confirmed cases in Ontario have been found in men, according to Public Health Ontario, with cases ranging from people between the ages of 25 and 59 years.

Vernon Finney was one of the people standing in line for the vaccine on Saturday at the 519.

"I'm just being cautious, with Pride coming up I just want to make sure I'm safe before the weekend," Finney said.

"There's going to be a lot of parties and a lot of people around, so I think it's important to get the vaccine beforehand."

Andrew Schmitt, at the same clinic, also said he wanted to err on the side of caution.

"We just want to be prepared for whatever is coming with this [virus]," Schmitt said.

"We've been scarred with COVID and obviously we've learned our lesson so we're just trying to be more proactive about it."

With files from CBC News