New York City stopped placing monkeypox vaccine vans outside of nightclubs and sex parties as the emergency continues to subside.
The city's mobile vaccination program for monkeypox began late last summer, but its funding is ending. Mass vaccination sites across the city also closed Monday.
There is now an average of three monkeypox cases per day, down from more than 70 in late July. New York City and state governments ended their states of emergency, although the federal government has continued it.
Vaccination sites are being moved to outpatient and sexual health clinics run by the city hospital system and private providers. The city funded the response without federal aid. Now, it is looking to make monkeypox vaccination part of routine healthcare.
Dr. Ted Long, executive director of the Test and Treat Corps. at the city's public hospital system, said he was working on bringing that van back — which administered 3,330 doses at 72 different sites — to offer vaccines and other sexual healthcare.
The city classified monkeypox as a sexually transmitted infection because it primarily spreads through sexual contact, particularly among gay men.
"Our goal with the mobile units is always to use them to tear down every conceivable barrier that we can to make it as easy for you to get vaccinated and as easy for you to get protected as possible," Long said.
City health workers spent months visiting clubs with mixed emotions. They said they missed educating people about the disease and that the number of people getting the vaccine had fallen as the outbreak took a turn.
Monkeypox was first diagnosed in New York at the end of May. The federal government developed a new smallpox vaccine that would work against monkeypox, but most of it was in a Danish factory and not ready to be shipped. Testing was also challenging because health providers did not fully understand the disease.
The combination of voluntary behavior change, vaccine dosages, and immunity caused cases to decrease dramatically.
Across the nation, there are now 25 cases per day, down from 450 on Aug. 7.
"While we are seeing decreases nationally, there's still some areas when we're seeing some embers that are glowing," said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator of the White House's monkeypox response. "We're not done with the work that we need to do to really get us to the goal of no domestic transmission in the United States."
Monkeypox is still causing serious issues for people living with HIV, leading to 11 deaths nationwide. The concern is the disease will continue circulating among those most vulnerable.
New York has administered about 100,000 first doses and 50,000 second doses.
The city still estimated in July that 150,000 New Yorkers were at high risk for the disease, with tens of thousands remaining unvaccinated. The city was the outbreak's epicenter, recording 3,800 cases since May. Nationally, there have been 29,000 cases since it began.
Mobile units focused on commercial sex parties, which saw the highest rates. Most gay bathhouses in New York City shut down for between six weeks and two months, according to Joseph Osmundson, a microbiologist at New York University. He assisted the liaison between the parties and the city. In early September, when the parties reopened, the city placed vans discretely around those hot spots.
Traffic to the vans slowed down, as did the prevalence of cases, as more utilized the vans' accessible vaccination sites.
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