In anticipation of significant LGBTQ-focused events over the Labor Day weekend, the Biden-Harris administration has announced that it is working with localities to provide thousands of vaccine doses for onsite administration.
New Orleans is preparing to host Southern Decadence, one of the country’s largest gatherings of gay and bisexual men. Thousands of additional monkeypox vaccine doses have been sent to Louisiana in anticipation of this weekend’s event.
Southern Decadence is expected to attract between 100,000 and 300,000 people.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra explained the importance of onsite vaccination in a recent call with reporters.
“It’s not enough to wait for people to show up at a doctor’s office or a county health department to schedule a vaccination appointment,” Becerra said. “We need to set up vaccination clinics where people are. And when we do that, there are better health outcomes for all of us.”
White House MPV coordinator Bob Fenton added, “Equity is a key pillar in our response, and we recognize the need to put extra resources into the field to make sure we are reaching communities most impacted by the outbreak.”
Louisiana has been allocated 1,500 additional vaccine vials for the event by the federal government. With this amount, Louisiana is expected to be able to provide 6,000 extra vaccine shots to the public, according to state officials. A vial can yield up to five doses when appropriately handled by a medical professional.
Vaccines will be distributed at 12 community events in New Orleans and Louis Armstrong Park, on the edge of the French Quarter.
A pocket guide made available online by the Louisiana Department of Health provides resources and information for those attending the weekend’s festivities.
In anticipation of any treatment needs for MPV-related individuals, the Louisiana and New Orleans Departments of Health are expected to place TPOXX courses throughout the city. In addition, due to the increased demand for MPV testing at local clinics after Southern Decadence, a mobile vaccination site will be stationed in the French Quarter from September 1-5, according to information released by the administration.
The CDC, the state of Louisiana, and the city of New Orleans health departments are collaborating to provide and distribute materials regarding MPV and how individuals can protect themselves during the festival. In addition, the administration is providing remote support to New Orleans and Louisiana in preparation for the celebration, including the wastewater surveillance program in New Orleans and clinical guidance on workplace safety.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards praised the efforts by the administration during the press conference.
He thanked the administration for the support, saying that “the working relationship that [Louisiana public health officials have] enjoyed with our federal partners around this particular effort is probably as good as they’ve ever seen.”
“[W]e are expecting tens of thousands of people in New Orleans over this Labor Day weekend,” Edwards said. “And so being able to prepare for that and to get a head start on the vaccinations, on the testing, on the communications, [are] all extremely important.”
There have been 181 MPV cases confirmed in Louisiana so far.
Also, this weekend will feature a celebration of Black Pride Atlanta. By replenishing Georgia’s stock with the number of vaccine doses administered during Atlanta Black Pride events this weekend, the Biden administration will also provide an additional 5,500 doses. In addition, the Georgia Department of Health, Fulton County Health Department, and partner agencies have already organized eight vaccination clinics in advance of Atlanta Black Pride, administration officials told The Advocate.
White House deputy MPV coordinator Dr. Demetre Daskalakis pointed to the Atlanta area as a current success.
“Fulton County just put out data that actually almost 70 percent of their vaccines so far in their vaccination effort have actually been given to people who are Black and brown,” Daskalakis said.
“So I think that this is going to be another great experience where the local public health officials work with their community to identify what’s the best way to get the word out at these big events,” he added.
Fulton County Health Department and the Georgia Department of Health plan to hold seven vaccination sites to make vaccines available to those attending this weekend’s events.
The Georgia and Fulton County Departments of Health are working closely with various local organizations, including Georgia CORE, to ensure widespread dissemination of educational material and information to individuals most at risk of contracting the virus and those planning on attending Atlanta Black Pride events. Throughout the MPV outbreak, Fulton County has focused on reaching communities of color, given the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black and Latino individuals.
In California, the administration is providing additional vaccines to Oakland as part of a special events pilot program.
As part of its preparation for events on September 4th and 11th, Oakland will receive an additional 2,400 doses of vaccine to replenish the California vaccine stock with the number of doses administered around Oakland Pride and Pridefest events.
As part of its collaboration with California, the administration is also helping disseminate educational information and messaging to those planning to attend Pride and Pridefest events, so they know how to protect themselves from the virus and can access vaccines, tests, and treatment options.
The White House announced the launch of a pilot program aimed at reaching populations at high risk of contracting MPV but might face barriers to accessing vaccines, such as the lack of online scheduling tools or stigma associated with attending public vaccination events requiring disclosure of sexual identity, gender identity, or level of sexual activity.
As part of the equity intervention pilot, the Biden-Harris Administration will set aside 10,000 vials of vaccine that health departments can request for use as part of smaller-scale equity interventions.
In addition to being distributed at community-based clinics that the current vaccine supply may not have reached, the administration announced that up to 100 vials per jurisdiction would be available for use in five equity-related interventions. Health officials will also make distributions at smaller events and venues that reach Black and Latino LGBTQ+ people and communities identified as MPV priorities in the local area.
Becerra said, “Our focus every day is making sure that those most at risk for monkeypox have the information and resources they need vaccines, tests, treatment to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
For more information about monkeypox, visit the CDC's website here.