cLynt Hopkins and his husband, Joel Hoekman, own Bucci’s Pharmacy in Sacramento, but you might not always find them there. Since the monkeypox outbreak began in the United States, the couple and their team of health professionals will likely be at a bar, private party, or local LGBTQ center that administers monkeypox vaccinations.
“We’re in a kind of unique position, because we’re LGBT and part of the community most at risk,” says Hochman, Pucci’s chief operating officer. “We’re aware of the social events going on across our social network, so we reached out and said, ‘Hey, we know you’re going to get together – let’s come and vaccinate everyone while they’re there. “
The vaccine to prevent monkeypox, called Jynneos, can protect people from infection before they are exposed to the virus. The recent outbreak spread rapidly among people in LGBTQ communities in the United States and many countries, after people in large gatherings were exposed. But vaccines do not always reach this high-risk group due to stigma. Some people are concerned about being identified as LGBTQ, while others prefer not to disclose their sexual orientation to employers, friends, or family, which can happen if they are seen at a testing site or in line at a public health clinic to receive the monkeypox vaccine. Hopkins and his team are trying to remove these barriers. After getting doses from the Sacramento Department of Public Health, they began offering monkeypox vaccines not only at their drugstores, but also at popular LGBTQ bars in the area and at a weekly social gathering at a friends house; In the first such encounter, 75 people were vaccinated. “We’ve given doses to people who might not have come in for vaccinations,” Hopkins says.
This is where Rick Russell got his first dose in July. “It was really amazing and amazing,” says Russell, a retired Navy firefighter and enlisted who is now an analyst with the California Department of the Army. They gave 75 vaccines to individuals who had no other way or way of idea of how to get vaccinated. What they’re doing to the community here in Sacramento – no one else has done anything like that.”
News of pop-up monkeypox vaccine clinics has spread all the way to neighboring Nevada, and people are driving the two-hour drive to Sacramento to get vaccinated. “Nobody cared about society as much as they did, and they do it just because they are part of our community,” Russell says.
Bucci Pharmacy has a legacy of serving the underprivileged in its community. In 2016, Hopkins and Hopkins bought the company from Tom Nelson, who was one of the few pharmacists in the area who filled prescriptions for new anti-HIV drugs during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which became life-changing treatments for people living with HIV. . Hopkins and Hopkins have long offered and prescribed HIV testing in the pharmacy to equipwhich can protect people from infection or serious illness from HIV, for people at high risk of exposure to the virus.
When COVID-19 hit, Hopkins reached out to the county health department and offered to help with mass vaccination campaigns. And when the first cases of monkeypox started showing up, the county reached out to him to help administer the doses. “We said, ‘Sure, this is our community,'” Hopkins says. “It is not just our local community in Sacramento that we help with, but as LGBT owners it is the broader community that the virus has been affecting the most. It was very important for us to get out before that.”
The duo’s Bedouin vaccination clinics have grown so popular that they take up their days, nights, and weekends. In a recent clinic at the Sacramento Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center, one Saturday in August, Hopkins’ team vaccinated 309 people. So far, his team has delivered more than half of the monkeypox vaccine doses destined for Sacramento County.
While Hopkins and Hawkman have been compensated for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, that source of financial support does not exist for monkeypox shots, they say. Unlike COVID-19 shots, the government does not reimburse for the monkeypox vaccine, which requires two doses. The few insurance companies that cover the shots, Hopkins says, only pay $19 per dose, and that doesn’t cover the cost of the staff and equipment needed to administer them. That’s less than half the amount paid for COVID-19 vaccines, and there is no funding for uninsured patients. He also points out that because of the stigma surrounding monkeypox, some people don’t want to provide their health insurance information because they don’t want their employer, family, or other people to find out they’ve had the monkeypox vaccine. This means that in some cases they provide the vaccines for free. “We need a fund to pay for these patients’ vaccinations in order to protect them,” he says. Hopkins says he has yet to be reimbursed for any monkeypox vaccinations he’s given.
Right now, “we’re doing this for charity,” says Hopkins. “But in a lot of other communities, they don’t have a pharmacy like ours is owned by LGBT owners who care about their community.”
Hopkins and Hopkins provide two examples, however, for other communities and even the federal government. in August, Dr.. Rochelle WalinskyDuring a briefing, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the agency was planning to offer monkeypox vaccines at upcoming pride events in order to make vaccines easier to access and administer for at-risk communities.
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