Tourists line up to get vaccinated against monkeypox in Montreal as a global emergency is declared

Tourists were among those queuing for monkeypox vaccinations in Montreal on Saturday as the World Health Organization declared the virus a global health emergency.

Brian Maci was one of several New Yorkers waiting to get vaccinated at an open-air clinic in the city’s Gay Village.

Maci, who was already in Montreal on vacation, said she was asked to get vaccinated in Canada after trying unsuccessfully to book an appointment in her country.

“It’s like concert tickets,” he said of the process in New York.

He said he went online just as appointments opened at 6 p.m., only to constantly have to update a blocked app and was eventually told there were no appointments available.

Later, at a drag show, he heard an announcement that vaccinations were available in Montreal, even to tourists.

“They mentioned that this was here and it’s the best thing ever because the community is reaching out and I can get it without having to deal with the United States,” he said.

Another couple on vacation from New York told a similar story about trying to make an appointment to get vaccinated at home.

“I got kicked off the system about five or six times and eventually there were no more citations, and I didn’t know when any more citations would come out,” said Brad, a 36-year-old man who declined to give his last name. .

“We were able to come here and get a walk-in vaccination and it’s amazing, amazing service,” he said.

#Tourists among those receiving monkeypox vaccinations in Montreal as the global emergency is declared. #Montreal #Viuela del mono

Montreal offers vaccines against the disease to all men who have sex with men, as well as to people who have been exposed to monkeypox.

On Saturday, about a dozen health care workers sat under pink and blue tents on Ste-Catherine Street, providing information to people who stopped to ask about the vaccine.

The men were asked for their health cards or, in the case of tourists, identification, and sat under tents or perched on a nearby wall to wait their turn.

McGill University infectious disease specialist Michael Libman said opening the vaccine to tourists makes “perfect sense” and is the right thing to do to stop the spread of the disease.

“The big problem is not the local spread, but the people who move the disease from one place to another,” he said in a telephone interview.

The World Health Organization announced Saturday that monkeypox now qualifies as a global emergency, saying it has spread to more than 70 countries.

A global emergency is the organization’s highest alert level, but the designation doesn’t necessarily mean a disease is particularly communicable or deadly. Similar statements were made for the 2016 Zika virus in Latin America and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to call monkeypox a global emergency despite a lack of consensus among experts on the UN health agency’s emergency committee, saying that acted as “a tiebreaker”. It was the first time a UN health agency chief had unilaterally made such a decision without expert advice.

“We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world through new modes of transmission, about which we know very little,” he said. “I know that this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views.”

Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and western Africa for decades, it was not known to cause large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe. North America and other places.

There were 681 confirmed cases of monkeypox in five Canadian provinces as of Saturday, including 331 in Quebec, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The number of cases has doubled since July 1, the agency said, noting that it also recorded the first diagnosis involving a woman and the first infections in the province of Saskatchewan during the same time period.

“Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Government of Canada’s top priority has been to protect the health of all Canadians,” read a statement issued after the WHO statement. “The Government recognizes the determination of the WHO and will continue its work with the provinces and territories as it has done since the start of the monkeypox outbreak.” ***

The Quebec government said in an email Friday that monkeypox in the province is “relatively contained” even though numbers continue to rise.

The province said it did not keep figures on how many of the 13,000 vaccines administered so far went to tourists from outside the province.

“In general, we recommend that people get vaccinated in their province or region of origin so that the vaccine has time to be effective before their visit to Quebec or Montreal,” the Department of Health wrote.

Libman said the WHO’s global emergency declaration constitutes a “call to action” that countries must heed.

He says that, for now, the disease is spread primarily among a small segment of the population — men who report having intimate contact with men — making it controllable as long as health officials act quickly.

But he notes that anyone can get monkeypox, which is spread through prolonged close contact via respiratory droplets, direct contact with broken skin or bodily fluids, or through contaminated clothing or bedding.

That means if left unchecked, it will “inevitably” spread to other groups, including households, he said.

Most of the men who lined up in Montreal said they weren’t too worried about contracting monkeypox or the WHO announcement.

“For me it’s more about prevention, but you never know,” said Mario Thouin, a resident of Drummondville, Quebec.

Twenty-three-year-old Isaiah Hagerman, on the other hand, said he had already been considering getting vaccinated, but the WHO announcement gave him the boost he needed.

“If someone had given me a brochure maybe a week ago, I probably would have missed this,” he said.

Maci, for his part, said he was encouraged by the warm welcome he received in Montreal, as well as the community’s effort to protect people.

“(Monkeypox) doesn’t scare me because of this,” he said, pointing to the pink and blue tents. “New York is stressful.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 23, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

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