Health

This pharmacist gives a monkey smallpox vaccine at a gay bar


OLDlint Hopkins and his husband, Joel Hockman, own Pucci’s Pharmacy in Sacramento, but you can’t always find them there. Since the monkeypox epidemic began in the United States, the couple and their team of medical professionals are more likely to be at a bar, private party, or their local LGBTQ center administering the vaccine. smallpox for monkeys.

“We are in a somewhat unique situation, because we are LGBT and part of the most at-risk community,” said Hockman, COO of Pucci. “We knew about social events going on through our social media, so we reached out and said, ‘Hey, we know you guys will get together — let us come. and vaccinate people while they’re there.”

The monkeypox vaccine, called Jynneos, can protect people from becoming infected before they are exposed to the virus. The latest outbreak has spread rapidly among the LGBTQ community in the US and several countries, after people were potentially exposed at mass gatherings. But vaccines don’t always fall into this high-risk group because of stigma. Some people are concerned about being identified as LGBTQ, while others are reluctant to reveal their sexual orientation to their employers, friends or family, which can happen if they are seen. at a testing site or in line at a public health clinic to receive monkeypox vaccine. Hopkins and his team are trying to remove these barriers. After purchasing the drug from the Sacramento department of public health, they began offering the monkeypox vaccine not only at their pharmacy, but also at popular LGBTQ bars in the area and at a social gathering. weekly meetings at friends’ homes; in such a first encounter, 75 people were immunized. “We’ve given doses to people who might not have been able to get vaccinated,” says Hopkins.

That’s where Rick Russell got his first dose in July. “That’s awesome and pretty awesome,” said Russell, a retired Navy firefighter and recruiter and now an analyst with the California Department of the Army. “They gave 75 shots of the vaccine to people who had no other way or no idea how to vaccinate. What they’re doing for the community here in Sacramento — no one else has ever done anything like it. “

Rumors of their monkeypox clinics have spread as far as neighboring Nevada, and people are driving two hours to Sacramento to get vaccinated. “No one cares about the community like they do and they are doing it just because they are part of our community,” Russell said.

Read more: It feels really good to have monkeypox

Pucci’s Pharmacy has a legacy of serving the underserved in its community. In 2016, Hopkins and Hockman bought the business from Tom Nelson, one of the few pharmacists in the area selling new anti-HIV drugs during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which became alternative therapy. change the lives of people living with HIV. . Hopkins and Hockman have long recommended pharmacy and prescription HIV testing PrEPcan protect people from getting or getting very sick from HIV, for those at high risk of exposure to the virus.

When COVID-19 hit, Hopkins contacted the county health department and offered to help with mass vaccination campaigns. And when the first cases of monkeypox began to appear, the county reached out to him to help administer the dosage. “We said, ‘Sure, this is our community,'” Hopkins said. “It is not only our local community in Sacramento that we are helping, but as LGBT owners it is our broader community that is where the virus is affecting the most. It is very important for us to rise above it. “

The duo’s nomadic vaccinations have grown in popularity to the point where they consume all day, night, and weekend. At a recent clinic at the Sacramento LGBTQ Center on an August Saturday, Hopkins’ team vaccinated 309 people. To date, his team has administered more than half of the monkeypox vaccine doses allotted to Sacramento County.

Hopkins and Hockman received a refund for the COVID-19 vaccine and therapy, however, that financial support did not exist for the monkeypox vaccination. Unlike the COVID-19 shots, the government does not refund the monkeypox vaccine, which requires two doses. Some insurance companies that cover the injections pay just $19 per dose, says Hopkins, which doesn’t include the cost of the staff and equipment needed to administer them. “That’s less than half of what was paid for the COVID-19 vaccine, and there’s no fund for uninsured patients.” He also points out that due to the stigma surrounding smallpox in monkeys, some people don’t want to give out their health insurance information because they don’t want their employer, family or significant other to know them. vaccinated monkeys with smallpox. That means that in some cases, they provide the vaccine for free. “We need a fund to pay for those patients to get vaccinated to protect them,” he said. Hopkins said he has yet to be reimbursed for any of the monkeypox vaccines he has received.

Right now, “we’re doing this for charity,” says Hopkins. “But in a lot of other communities, they don’t have a pharmacy like ours, run by LGBT owners who care about taking care of their community.”

However, Hopkins’ and Hockman are serving as examples for other communities and even the federal government. In August, Dr. Rochelle WalenskyThe director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press conference that the agency is planning to offer monkeypox vaccine at upcoming pride events to help communities there is a risk of easier access and administration of vaccines.

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