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LGBTQ community faces hurdles when it comes to getting the monkeypox vaccine

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

Health officials in San Francisco hope vaccines against monkeypox will arrive more quickly now that the mayor has declared a local emergency. KQED's Annelise Finney attended an LGBTQ festival over the weekend where attendees talked about the hurdles they faced.

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ANNELISE FINNEY, BYLINE: Up Your Alley is an annual leather and fetish festival. It includes kink demonstrations, dancing, shopping and draws thousands to San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood. The crowd is mostly men and mostly naked.

MARTIN MOULTON: I love being naked.

FINNEY: Martin Moulton is wearing a beanie, sunglasses and shoes, and that's it.

MOULTON: And I think the gospel of being nude doesn't have as many proselytizers as it needs.

FINNEY: But nudity isn't all you see. There's also folks in furry animal suits and tight rubber chaps. And as one health advisory cheekily noted, since monkeypox is mainly passed through skin-to-skin contact, there's never been a better time to dress from head to toe in latex or leather.

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LONDON BREED: We want to make it known that San Francisco has one of the highest case rates already of monkeypox of any other major city in the country.

FINNEY: At a press conference a few days ago, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was with public officials, many of whom expressed a sort of deja vu and trauma in seeing a rising illness predominantly affecting the gay community, like AIDS did in the 1980s. This time, Mayor Breed swore, things will be different.

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BREED: By sounding the alarm, what we're saying is this is not going to be ignored, that this is a public health crisis, that we are in desperate need of vaccines to support the people of San Francisco.

FINNEY: The emergency declaration gives the public health department the ability to partner with community organizations and reassign employees to expand testing and vaccination efforts. But that requires vaccines. The city has received around 12,000 from the federal government, but it needs 70,000. In the crowd, attendee Abdiel Cerrud said he managed to get a first dose of the vaccine, but not without some turmoil.

ABDIEL CERRUD: The vaccine clinic that I went to - there were hundreds of people waiting for a vaccine. It was waiting in line with the hopes of there being enough dosages to go around.

FINNEY: He hopes the city's emergency declaration might help change that.

For NPR News, I'm Annelise Finney in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Annelise Finney

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