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Monkeypox vaccine: what you need to know about eligibility in KFL&A

Image via KFL&A Public Health website.

Currently, eligible residents in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) are able to sign up for a waitlist for the Monkeypox vaccine.

As set by the province, eligibility requirements are those who identify as trans or cis-gendered and belong to the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community. They must also: be 18 years of age and older; received a diagnosis of bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last two months; have had two or more sexual partners within the past 21 days, or may be planning to; have attended venues for sexual contact within the past 21 days, or may be planning to, or work or volunteer in these settings; have had anonymous or casual sex in the past 21 days, or may be planning to; or engage in sex for work or may be planning to.

If someone meets these criteria, they can add themselves to the waitlist on the KFL&A website.

“When an individual self-identifies as eligible for the vaccine, they are added to a list and it is essentially a first come, first served process, whereby one of the nurses will contact them and add them to our clinic roster,” says Jenny Hutchinson, a Public Health Nurse with KFL&A Public Health.

Once contacted, individuals will be able to have the vaccine administered at the KFL&A Public Health clinic space. “We have ongoing clinics that people can attend by appointment once they are contacted by our staff here,” says Hutchinson.

What you need to know about the vaccine:

The vaccine is free and available to all eligible people. No ID or OHIP is required.

“The vaccine is a safe and effective method to prevent infection with Monkeypox if you are given the vaccine before exposure,” says Dr. Melissa Wan, a resident physician at KFL&A Public Health. “It can reduce severe illness if you are exposed to the Monkeypox virus.”

“In terms of the side effects of the vaccine, it contains modified virus and cannot make you sick. Like other vaccines, it may cause side effects. Most of them are mild [to] moderate and they go away on their own within seven days. Some of the common side effects include redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site; feeling tired; getting a headache, muscle aches, or nausea. There is always a risk with any vaccine of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, and that is something we will monitor here if people are given the vaccine,” Dr. Wan adds.

Preventive measures to avoid contracting monkeypox:

“In terms of general preventive measures, we would recommend for people to avoid going to places where there have been monkeypox exposures and/or outbreaks that are reported,” says Dr. Wan.

“In addition, we know some of the risk factors include multiple partners for anonymous sex, so reducing some of those behaviours would also reduce your risk of Monkeypox.”

Currently, the risk for contraction is still considered to be low for KFL&A residents, according to the local Health Unit.

Animals and Monkeypox:

It has been found that several animals can carry and spread the Monkeypox virus.

“We recommend that precautions should be taken to prevent any exposure of the virus to either domestic or wild mammals,” Dr. Wan says.

Dr. Wan advises that, if pet owners suspect that they have been exposed to or contracted Monkeypox, they should avoid cuddling, kissing, and sharing food with their animals, as well as disposing of animal waste appropriately (in case the pet has contracted the virus). In addition, animals should be kept indoors, however, if the pet needs to go outdoors for elimination purposes, owners should ensure that the animal is leashed within two metres and avoid visiting areas where other animals and other people frequent.

As Monkeypox is commonly spread through respiratory and close skin-to-skin contact, owners can take other precautions with their pets. Wearing a medical mask, covering sores, and washing your hands with soap and water can also help to prevent your pet from possible contraction of Monkeypox.

Should pet owners suspect their pet has contracted monkeypox, Public Health advises that pet owners seek care through veterinary telemedicine in order to assess if the animal’s condition can be managed at home. If a pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian, that veterinarian should be advised that the pet may have been exposed to monkeypox. Finally, “your veterinarian should then contact the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs at 1-877-424-1300 to ensure that they have proper infection control procedures in place and appropriate personal protective equipment prior to attending your pet at home (ideally) or at a veterinary clinic (if necessary).”

Public Health Ontario stresses that, if you think you have monkeypox, it is important to isolate right away and contact a healthcare provider. Do not visit a monkeypox vaccine clinic. The vaccine is not used to treat monkeypox (it is a preventative treatment). You can also visit the KFL&A Public Health website to find a list of common symptoms of the virus, and further information.

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