Monkeypox Deputy Coordinator: Monkeypox ‘Can’t Distinguish Between People Based on Their Sexual Orientation or Gender’

Melanie Arter | September 8, 2022 | 1:44pm EDT
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Monkeypox Deputy Coordinator Demetre Daskalakis speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 7, 2022. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Monkeypox Deputy Coordinator Demetre Daskalakis speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 7, 2022. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Even though monkeypox has mostly affected the LGBTQ community and specifically gay men, “it can’t distinguish between people based on their sexual orientation or gender,” White House Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator Dr. Demetre Daskalakis said Wednesday.

According to the CDC, “Among U.S. monkeypox cases with available data, 99% occurred in men, 94% of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact.”


“As a result of this outbreak, there has been the expression of real concern in the gay community, the LGBTQ-plus community about stigmatization, specifically related to gay men.  So what specifically can you say, as it relates to those concerns, of a new stigma being attached to gay men across this country due to monkeypox?” NBC White House Correspondent Peter Alexander asked Daskalakis.

“So I’ll start by saying: It’s the role of governmental public health and government to really model excellent behavior on that, and I think we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done to create non-stigmatizing language to inform people what they need to do to stay healthy,” Daskalakis said.

“So I think that that’s the first step, which is really making sure that we’re modeling the right behavior and that we’re putting out materials that speak to the community in a way that doesn’t stigmatize them,” the deputy coordinator said.

“I think it’s all of our responsibility, and I think that we, as sort of the role model in that — it’s really important, but I think that, you know, in media, in the way that we communicate with our students and universities, in the ways that we communicate with others that need to know about this — really making it clear that this is a virus,” he said.

“It’s, like I like to say, a piece of DNA wrapped in some fat. It’s not smart. It can’t distinguish between people based on their sexual orientation or gender, and so, everyone needs to be aware, but we need to make sure that we’re messaging appropriately to the folks who are overly represented in the outbreak,” Daskalakis said.

Monkeypox Response Coordinator Bob Fenton said the U.S. has “ample supply to vaccinate the highest-risk individuals against monkeypox,” and he detailed the White House’s efforts to provide vaccinations at gay pride events across the country.

Nearly all jurisdictions have moved toward the intradermal vaccine approach, which means that jurisdictions have effectively transitioned toward an approach that has gotten not only more shots into arms but also without sacrificing the safety and effectiveness of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

In fact, over 70 percent of all vaccines being administered in the United States today are given intradermally. Our focus now is to reach the remainder of the eligible population where they are: at trusted locations and events across the country, and equity has to be a key point and priority embedded in throughout our response.

This past week, we saw how successful that approach is. Because of our direct allocations for Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Black Pride in Atlanta, and Oakland Pride, thousands of shots were administered during these events. In fact, over 3,000 doses were administered at Southern Decadence and their affiliated events, and nearly 4,000 doses were administered at Black Pride in Atlanta.

That means thousands of individuals are being — getting their protection against monkeypox that they may not have if — otherwise. These events demonstrate our strategy is working.

We’re also accelerating our efforts to provide vaccines to places and people that we know will make a difference. As Dr. Daskalakis announced last week, we are launching a new program that allows local health departments to request vaccines to use innovatively through strategies to reach Black and brown communities.

And today, we’re announcing that we’re providing more vaccines to upcoming Pride events across the country — first to Idaho, where 820 doses will be made available for the weekend of Boise Pride; and second, 10,000 doses to California, ahead of the Folsom Street Fair, the Castro Street Fair in San Francisco toward the end of this month. We will continue to pull every lever and meet people where they are to end this outbreak. 

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