Suffolk County will begin distributing monkeypox vaccines to eligible residents next week at pop-up clinics run by Northwell Health in Fire Island, officials announced Friday.
The county received an initial allotment of 750 monkeypox vaccine doses after at least three cases of the rare viral infection have been discovered in the past week. Monkeypox is having its largest outbreaks in gay and bisexual communities, officials noted, and it is primarily caught through close, intimate skin-to-skin contact.
“This is a public health issue and we need to stop the spread,” said David Kilmnick, executive director of the LGBT Network. “Education and awareness is going to be an important part to getting the word out to Long Island’s LGBT communities. If people are at risk and are eligible, they need to go get the vaccine.”
Eligible individuals can begin registering for monkeypox vaccine appointments beginning Monday, July 11. There will be pop-up clinics in Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines, and appointments are required. Statewide eligibility includes those who have had recent exposure to monkeypox within the last 14 days, those at high risk of a recent exposure, and those who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone experiencing monkeypox symptoms.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the monkeypox vaccine rollout at LGBT Network’s Hauppauge headquarters alongside Kilmnick, Northwell Health Nurse Donna Moravick, and County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott.
“This is not a cause for alarm or panic,” Bellone said. “It is a rare, viral infection and does not usually cause serious illness.”
Pigott also assured residents that the disease is not highly contagious and is not airborne. The health department has conducted contact tracing for the known cases and exposed individuals have been notified, he added.
The county expects to obtain more vaccines to distribute to mainland Suffolk County after addressing the spread in Fire Island, officials noted.