Connect with us


Limited monkeypox vax: Southern Decadence is a concern for Louisiana

A large outbreak of monkeypox could have a potentially devastating impact on Louisiana, which is significantly dependent on tourism



Southern Decadence/Facebook

By Julie O’Donoghue | NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana is headed into one of the largest gatherings of gay and bisexual men in the country next month without nearly enough monkeypox vaccine to meet the demand – and with a shortage of vaccine nationwide during a growing outbreak of the virus

Any person, regardless of gender or sexual history, can contract monkeypox, health officials have emphasized, but an overwhelming number of the cases in the United States and Eurpoe so far have been among men who have sex with men. If the outbreak in the LGBTQ+  is not controlled, health experts expect that the virus will spread farther into the general population.

Yet so far, the federal government has resisted calls from Louisiana health officials to provide the state with more vaccine ahead of one of the major events on the national gay social calendar. 

Southern Decadence, advertised as the largest LGBTQ+ festival held annually in the Deep South, is scheduled for Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1-5) in New Orleans. It typically attracts 100,000 to 300,000 participants and is a major economic boon to the city in a season when tourism is otherwise sluggish.

People come from all over the country and world to attend, and anticipation is particularly high this year, since the festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 over COVID-19 concerns.

Yet health officials at the state and local level say Louisiana’s meager vaccine supply will leave the state vulnerable to a large monkeypox outbreak following such a massive event. Southern Decadence could also further the virus spread in other parts of the country if visitors become infected while in New Orleans and carry monkeypox back to their hometowns, they said. 

“This will be a superspreader event without additional vaccine doses ahead of time to get as many people as possible [vaccinated],” said Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans health director and an emergency room physician, in an interview this week.

Ideally, Louisiana and New Orleans would launch a widespread vaccine drive to inoculate as many people – particularly gay and bisexual men – before Southern Decadence.

But the federal government has only agreed to give the state 9,200 doses of the monkeypox vaccine in total.  Some of those doses might not arrive until the middle of September, after Southern Decadence has already taken place, state officials said last week. 

The Louisiana Department of Health pleaded with the federal government to give the state an additional 15,000 doses “outside of the state’s normal allocation” ahead of Southern Decadence to help prepare for the event, but the request has not been granted so far. U.S. Centers for Disease Control officials are more likely to provide technical assistance – expertise in communication, education, epidemiology and behavioral science – ahead of the event. 

“We have been advocating for weeks and weeks at the highest level of the federal government to put this on their radar – because it was not on their radar,” Avegno said of Southern Decadence. “We need to vaccinate an awful lot of people and we need supply.”

Absent more vaccine doses, Avegno said public health officials are working with Southern Decadence organizers and bars that cater to the LGBTQ+ community to educate them on how the virus spreads. Louisiana and New Orleans are totally dependent on the federal government to provide the drug.

Monkeypox is thought to be easily transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, though it could also spread through sharing personal items like towels and bedsheets. The virus can produce flu-like symptoms and a painful rash, which is subtle at first but then turns into oozing scabs. A person who has monkeypox can be contagious and sick for as long as a month. 

The disease is only rarely fatal, but may leave scarring. People who get monkeypox have a difficult time going to the bathroom and describe it as one of the most uncomfortable experiences of their lives. They can have trouble sleeping because the pain is so severe.

Yet the monkeypox vaccine has been very hard to come by in Louisiana, even for people who have spent days trying to find it. The state’s largest healthcare provider that caters to the LGBTQ+ community, CrescentCare in New Orleans, ran out of doses for several days last week. 

“Southern Decadence is alarming – to put it lightly,” said Joe Hui, spokesperson for the clinic.

Louisiana may have an uphill battle when it comes to advocating for more vaccine doses. It has a lower infection rate – about 1 in about 80,400 residents has monkeypox – than the country as whole, where 1 in every 49,800 residents has tested positive. The state is also competing with places like California and New York, that are experiencing larger monkeypox outbreaks and have larger populations of gay and bisexual men.

Louisiana only has 58 confirmed cases of monkeypox, 42 of which are in New Orleans or its surrounding parishes, as of Wednesday evening. By comparison, New York had 1,666 and California had 826. In the South, Texas and Florida both had over 500 cases. 

But organizers of Southern Decadence events said they felt other communities who host major events for gay and bisexual men were given more resources than New Orleans ahead of time.

Mark Louque, who splits his time between New Orleans and Provincetown, Mass., said Provincetown residents had far more access to vaccine ahead of Bear Week, another population festival for gay men, in early July. 

“All of those people were able to get vaccinated two weeks prior to Bear Week,” he said.

Louque hosts a dance party at the Ace Hotel during Southern Decadence which typically attracts 1,200 to 1,500 people. 

In light of monkeypox, he’s lowered the capacity by 100 people for the event, so dancers can spread out more and don’t have to touch each other if they don’t want to do so. He’s also offered refunds to any guest who has already bought a ticket if they don’t feel safe attending. Louque also plans to send emails to people who have signed up for the party, educating them on the risk associated with monkeypox.

““Keeping these nightlife spaces safe for people is part of my work,” he said. “And maybe we have to dance with our shirts on this year? I don’t know.”

Ross Ransom, who is throwing two parties during Southern Decadence, said it is difficult to know what to expect. His events could attract a few hundred people, but the monkeypox outbreak may also cut down on attendance. Ransom is trying to share resources about where to get the vaccine in Louisiana and how to identify monkeypox through  social media accounts. 

Ransom, who owns a house in New Orleans but lives part time in California, said he has already been vaccinated. He wishes there could be a vaccine site in the French Quarter during Southern Decadence to reach more people. 

“The vaccine appears to be disproportionately unavailable in the South,” he said.

A large outbreak of monkeypox could have a potentially devastating impact on Louisiana, which is significantly dependent on tourism and headed into football season, when tens of thousands of people squeeze into LSU’s Tiger Stadium and the Superdome in New Orleans for games.

New Orleans at-large City Council Member J.P. Morrell said he hopes to see a more robust education campaign on monkeypox from Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration headed into Southern Decadence. 

“[The city] hasn’t taken it as seriously as COVID because the incidents of death aren’t as high as COVID,” Morrell said. “But you don’t want collapsing school attendance and a collapsing economy because people are home for a month bedridden with sores.”


Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for | The Times-Picayune for six years.

She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.


The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: [email protected]. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue Reading


Monkeypox vax outages & bureaucracy impedes healthcare providers

CDC on Friday reported that the number of confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus has doubled in the past two weeks escalating to 11,177



Photo Credit: State of California

LOS ANGELES – Frustrations are mounting as the campaign to vaccinate people against infection of the monkeypox virus is derailed by a critical supply shortage of vaccine doses with added bureaucratic obstacles in getting financial reimbursement to the healthcare providers and clinics dispensing the vaccine.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has nearly exhausted its limited supplies of the JYNNEOS and is anticipating resupply, but has paused its County-wide pre-registration link on its website, putting off scheduling new vaccine appointments.

In one notable example, Public Health’s Monkeypox Vaccination Pop-Up Clinic at the West Hollywood Library exhausted its supply of the vaccine on Friday and ceased operations. According to a press release from West Hollywood city officials, more doses of vaccine are anticipated to be delivered by the federal government in the coming days, on a date to be determined. Once supply is reestablished, then operations will resume for the Pop-Up Clinic.

Exacerbating the crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported that the number of confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus has doubled in the past two weeks escalating to 11,177.

In Los Angeles County, the County Health Department said that the county’s monkeypox profile is similar to the national case load increase as the disease spreads.

Complicating the issue, in an action taken earlier this week, Michelle Baass, the Director
of the California Department of Health Care Services, (DHCS) announced that Medi-Cal will only reimburse Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) for monkeypox vaccine administration when provided during a face-to-face visit with a provider.

Reacting to Baass’ decision, a group of 17 healthcare providers for the LGBTQ community in California sent a letter to Director Baass expressing deep concerns regarding the seemingly arbitrary move, which ran counter to the history of state efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the letter [embedded below] the signatories representing the 17 organizations stated:

This decision will significantly hamper the ability of FQHCs to respond to the monkeypox outbreak with the speed and urgency it requires and flies in the face of Governor Newsom’s declared State of Emergency.

As health care providers who serve a significant percentage of low-income LGBTQ+ Californians, we believe this decision is a flagrant example of institutionalized homophobia and we urge the department to reverse course immediately. Monkeypox vaccine administration by FQHCs should be reimbursed in the same way as COVID-19 vaccines.”

The letter also stated:

Regrettably, DHCS’ announcement this week will only make it harder for many of our most
vulnerable LGBTQ+ Medi-Cal patients to be vaccinated. In the FQHC setting, monkeypox
vaccines are generally administered outside of a primary care visit by a non-billable provider.
This allows us to vaccinate a significantly greater number of patients on a daily basis

Forcing Medi-Cal patients to have a face-to-face visit with a primary care provider will dramatically slow our current vaccination effort and make it even harder to control the current outbreak. In the time it takes for one individual to have their vitals taken and engage in a face-to-face visit with a primary care provider, FQHCs have the ability to vaccinate 15-20 people. DHCS’ policy makes absolutely no sense from a public health perspective and it screams of discrimination.

Anthony Cava, a spokesman for the California Department of Health Care Services, responded to the Blade’s inquiry over the facts of the letter laid out by the Healthcare provider signatories. However Cava ignored the implications of homophobia and discrimination specified in the letter:

“In response to the monkeypox public health emergency, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) appreciates the tremendous effort, focus, and compassion that our clinic partners are bringing to the important work of combatting this virus in their communities. Their hard work and dedication make them critical partners in our response.

DHCS is committed to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to respond to monkeypox. DHCS will broadly seek federal approval to reimburse vaccine administration and applicable laboratory testing at 100 percent of the Medicare rate, once established. As part of this request, DHCS will seek federal approval to reimburse Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), and similarly situated clinics that are paid an all-inclusive rate, the vaccine administration fee for vaccine-only visits, consistent with how we are reimbursing for COVID-19 vaccine-only visits. The requested federal approvals will also include reimbursement for vaccine administration performed by non-clinic providers.

At this time, DHCS has not yet received federal guidance regarding reimbursement policies for the administration of the monkeypox vaccine. However, DHCS has communicated with CMS about the urgent need for clarity. Pending the release of such guidance, we informed FQHC providers that we will reimburse them for care provided, which may include the administration of the vaccine if it is done as part of a clinic visit that includes addressing this virus.”

Aaron Fox, the Director of Government Relations for the Los Angeles LGBT Center responded to the DHCS statement:

“Our community cannot wait for DHCS and CMS to continue talking. We must have action on this yesterday and we are in a Public Health crisis and government bureaucracy and inaction is unacceptable and will only result in increased suffering in our community,” Fox told the Blade in a phone call late Friday.

Fox added that his perception of the government response is that while the Biden-Administration and California have declared a Public Health Emergency, in terms of immediate action taken thus far it is little more than saying, “oh look there’s a house on fire,” but neglecting to dial 911 and get the fire dept rolling.

The Blade also had a conversation by phone late Friday with Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John’s Community Health, a network of community clinics in the greater Los Angeles region:

“While I applaud the spirit of the DHCS response, however, spirit alone will not stop this outbreak. DHCS has the power to make decisions about reimbursement rates and services allowable under Medi-Cal so they can set an interim rate for monkey-pox administration at the same rate it was set under COVID-19. I’ll note though that it took DHCS over a year to reimburse clinics for the COVID-19 community clinic programs. We urge them to do the right thing now before its too late.”

At a federal level, this last week on Tuesday, as part of a decision by Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra to issue a determination under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to justify emergency use authorization of vaccines, the FDA also ordered a new vaccine approach.

This would change injections of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the subcutaneous route (delivery of the vaccine under the fat layer underneath the skin) to the intradermal route (delivery of the vaccine into the layer of skin just underneath the top layer).

This would allow for healthcare providers to squeeze five doses out of what used to be just one dose, which the FDA said should increase the number of vaccine doses in the national stockpile from 441,000 to more than 2.2 million.

In a letter first obtained by the Washington Post and later by the Blade, [embedded below] Paul Chaplin the President & CEO of Bavarian Nordic A/S, the sole manufacturer of the JYNNEOS Monkeypox vaccine expressed grave misgivings over HHS Secretary Becerra’s plan to dilute the dosage.

“Bavarian Nordic (BN) is dedicated to assisting Governments around the globe to control the current monkeypox outbreak and is fully supportive of dose-sparing approaches, such as delaying the second vaccination. However, we do have some reservations on the ID approach, due to the very limited safety data available,” Chaplin wrote.

Addressing both the reimbursement issues raised by the community clinic networks as well as the supply chain issues, California State Senator Scott Wiener told the Blade in an email,

“The Administration has been a strong partner in our effort to fight monkeypox, and we’re working closely and collaboratively to ensure our response is as effective as possible. I’m confident we’ll be able to resolve this issue.”

Wiener (D-San Francisco) was appointed by California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) to chair the newly-formed State Senate Select Committee on Monkeypox. Also appointed as members of the committee are Senators Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), and Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).

LADPH reported Friday that the total Monkeypox / Orthopox Confirmed Cases were 797 which
included Long Beach and Pasadena
which have separate independent health departments.

Los Angeles County (excl. Long Beach and Pasadena)753
Long Beach36

Long Beach data as of August 11, 2022 at 12:00 AM.
Pasadena data as of August 10, 2022 at 5:30 PM.

CDC Monkeypox data table for August 12, 2022, 11,177 total cases:

District Of Columbia328
New Hampshire15
New Jersey293
New Mexico16
New York2,295
North Carolina138
North Dakota2
Puerto Rico48
Rhode Island31
South Carolina60
South Dakota2
West Virginia4

Continue Reading


Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease



Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.


Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.


The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading


Monkeypox virus cases in U.S. double in two weeks: 10,768 confirmed

“To date, there have been 738 cases of monkeypox identified in L.A. County, which is double the number of cases we had 12 days ago”



Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 LA

LOS ANGELES – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported that the number of confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus has doubled in the past two weeks escalating to 10,768, the largest caseloads in the states of New York with 2,187; California with 1,892; Florida with 1,053; Georgia with 824 and Illinois with 734 cases.

In Los Angeles County, the County Health Department said that the county’s monkeypox profile is similar to the national case load increase as the disease spreads.

“To date, there have been 738 cases of monkeypox identified in L.A. County, which is double the number of cases we had 12 days ago,” said Dr. Rita Singhall of the L.A. County Public Health Department. “Additionally, there have been 33 cases reported in Long Beach and eight cases reported in Pasadena.”

On Tuesday as part of a decision by Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra to issue a determination under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to justify emergency use authorization of vaccines, the FDA also ordered a new vaccine approach.

This would change injections of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the subcutaneous route (delivery of the vaccine under the fat layer underneath the skin) to the intradermal route (delivery of the vaccine into the layer of skin just underneath the top layer).

This would allow for healthcare providers to squeeze five doses out of what used to be just one dose, which the FDA said should increase the number of vaccine doses in the national stockpile from 441,000 to more than 2.2 million.

KABC reported that LADPH officials say they have received about 43,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, three-quarters of which have already been administered.

But with more shipments expected and the FDA’s new dose splitting, county officials say they should be able to reach tens of thousands more people who are at risk of catching the virus.

“We will be able to fully vaccinate with two doses, as a two-dose series, 85,000 to 90,000 people in L.A. County,” Singhall said.

CDC Data as of Wednesday:

District Of Columbia319
New Hampshire15
New Jersey293
New Mexico16
New York2,187
North Carolina131
North Dakota2
Puerto Rico43
Rhode Island31
South Carolina49
South Dakota2
West Virginia4

From KABC ABC 7:

Continue Reading

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts