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Protecting vulnerable Utahns from monkeypox infections

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 15:29:18-04

SALT LAKE CITY — All of the monkeypox vaccine available in Utah is gone after a Salt Lake City event drew several hundred people considered to be at high risk of catching the virus.

WATCH: What is monkeypox and what are the symptoms, treatment?

With almost no publicity, the word went out earlier this week to those considered most vulnerable for contracting monkeypox: gay and bisexual men. Almost immediately after it was announced, over 400 people reserved a spot at the vaccine event.

The Salt Lake County Health Department originally had about 300 doses and Thursday’s event was supposed to start at 2 p.m. and last into the evening. But dozens of people were already lined up by noon, and all of the doses, which eventually numbered more than 500, had been administered by 5:00 p.m.

"I have, in the past, engaged the community in many public health efforts, and I tend to have a lot of success because I have a large social network here in Utah and I'm just grateful that I could be a part of that process," said Michael Sanders with Black Boots, a social and educational group in Utah.

Leaders in Utah’s gay and bisexual community say they were thrilled to get the word out and help get folks vaccinated.

“So monkeypox at this time is primarily spreading through the gay men's community, and as a member of that community and a responsible member of that community, I wanted to get the word out and have our community helped be the solution to the problem before it gets to be a big problem," added Sanders.

Eighty people who were not able to get vaccinated were put on a priority list for when the next shipment becomes available.

“So when we have more monkeypox vaccine available in the state, we will be holding future clinics for additional higher risk groups," said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman with the Salt Lake County Health Department. "We don't know when those will be yet because we don't know yet from the federal government when we'll get those additional doses of monkeypox vaccine.“

Rupp added that anyone is capable of contracting monkeypox since it is transmitted through close, personal contact, but it is not technically a sexually-transmittable disease.

There are currently seven confirmed cases of monkeypox in Utah, and all of those who are infected contracted the virus out of state.