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Lexington monkeypox vaccination clinic deemed a success, but authorities worry about complacency and stigma

Mary Altaffer/AP
Physician Assistant Susan Eng-Na prepares a syringe with the monkeypox vaccine before inoculating a patient during vaccination clinic at the OASIS Wellness Center, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Lexington health officials say a mass vaccination clinic of the two-dose monkeypox vaccine was well-attended with over 500 people receiving their first shot. But a Fayette County Health Department spokesperson worries too many aren't taking the threat seriously or contributing to a growing stigma surrounding it.

By all measures, the health department’s mass vaccination event Thursday was a success, effectively delivering the initial jab to hundreds deemed eligible under the department’s phased vaccine rollout.

Still, while demand was high leading into the clinic, health department spokesman Kevin Hall says he’s seeing a troubling trend of people shrugging off the disease.

"So it can be transmitted through sex. It can also be transmitted through hugging, kissing, shared equipment and clothes," Hall says. "So it's not something that is just spread sexually and too many people I'm seeing on social media are saying, 'Well, not going to affect me... I'm not going to need to worry about this.' We don't want you to worry about it, but we want you to be cautious. We want you to take the proper steps to protect you and to protect others."

How monkeypox spreads

Right now, in part due to limited quantities of the vaccine, the department is concentrating its early efforts on those deemed at higher risk.

Phase one targeted those believed to have had close contact with someone who is positive for monkeypox. Phase two – the current phase – is directed toward vaccinating men who have sex with men or meet other criteria. The third phase will include anyone who wishes to get vaccinated.

How to talk about monkey effectively, without stigmatizing gay men

For now, Hall says the city has enough vaccine to effectively administer the phased rollout. Starting Monday, eligible residents can register online for the free monkeypox vaccination Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but a limited number of slots will be open.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.