Online registration opens Monday for appointments to get one of Suffolk’s 750 doses of monkeypox vaccine, which is to be administered on Fire Island, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Friday. Nassau announced its first confirmed case of the virus and plans to begin offering its 400 doses starting Monday.
In Suffolk, the shots will be given in two historically gay vacation communities — Cherry Grove, beginning Thursday, and Friday at the Pines, said Donna Moravick, a nurse and executive director with Northwell Health, which is administering the vaccine at two of its three existing Fire Island clinics.
In Nassau, Nassau University Medical Center and Northwell will be giving the shots to their existing patients who meet eligibility criteria, said county spokesman Christopher Boyle. Signup details are pending, he said.
Although anyone can get monkeypox, at least 98% or 99% of cases in the current outbreak, affecting largely the United States and Europe, are in men who have sex with men.
What to know about monkeypox
Monkeypox is transmitted by skin contact with lesions, but also face-to-face during prolonged exposure. The virus typically takes from seven to 14 days from the time of infection until symptoms show up, but it can be as soon as five days or as long as three weeks.
Although generally not fatal, a bout of monkeypox is "an extremely unpleasant experience," state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said Thursday: rash with blisters in places such as the mouth, genitals, feet, eyes, hands and face; fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, aching muscles and malaise.
Monkeypox belongs to the same genus, orthopoxvirus, that causes smallpox and cowpox. First discovered in 1958 during two outbreaks of a poxlike illness in colonies of monkeys being kept for research, monkeypox's first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Monkeypox is typically endemic in about 10 Central and West African countries.
There are four known cases among Suffolk residents, and one of a Nassau resident, according to the state Health Department's website. There are 174 cases statewide, up from 153 a day earlier; 160 cases in New York City, up from 141; and 791 nationwide, up from 700, according to government websites.
Worldwide in the current outbreak, there are more than 6,000 monkeypox cases, according to statistics released earlier this week by the World Health Organization.
“It’s not something you have to be concerned of if you’re walking, or you’re in a crowded space, and you’re just breathing the air. Not like COVID,” said Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk's health commissioner. He added: “I just want to reaffirm that this is not a threat to the public.”
Pigott, speaking before Suffolk County's fourth case was announced Friday, said the three infected were in isolation, and the county has done contact tracing to reach those who have been exposed to each of them.
For now, the two Fire Island clinics are the only places in Suffolk to get the monkeypox vaccine. Suffolk got more doses from the state than anywhere else in New York besides the city.
The state Health Department has said it's particularly concerned about Fire Island, which draws both county residents as well as out-of-town visitors.
There's no residency requirement to get the vaccine, and it's free, said David Kilmnick, president of the LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit. Bellone said registration would be on the Suffolk County website, but he did not provide a specific address.
Across the nation, supplies are scarce, but the government is ordering more vaccine, state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said Thursday.
Kilmnick, whose Hauppauge office hosted Bellone's announcement, said he'd like the vaccines to be more broadly available.
“This is a start, with 750 vaccines,” he said, adding: “When Phase 2 comes, whenever that is, we’re looking forward to these vaccines coming to the mainland, not only to Fire Island.”
Bellone said he hopes that in the next two weeks, the county gets more vaccine doses and can expand to the mainland.
The 750 will be used for first doses, Kilmnick said. The vaccine — Jynneos, said by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be the safest of the two approved for use in the U.S. — is two shots, given four weeks apart.
According to state guidelines, those who qualify include:
- those with recent exposure within the past 14 days
- "those at high risk ... including members of the gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming community and other communities of men who have sex with men and who have engaged in intimate or skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days areas where monkeypox is spreading”
- “individuals who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity, including men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application ('app'), or social event, such as a bar or party.”
With Cecilia Dowd