As Montreal Pride approaches, city increases efforts to vaccinate against monkeypox

·2 min read
One of the floats in Montreal's 2019 Pride parade. This year's festivities have to contend with an outbreak of monkeypox . (Yessica Chavez/Radio-Canada - image credit)
One of the floats in Montreal's 2019 Pride parade. This year's festivities have to contend with an outbreak of monkeypox . (Yessica Chavez/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montreal Public Health is working with Pride organizers and a community group to get the message out that men who have sex with men should get vaccinated against monkeypox before next week's Pride festivities get underway.

Vaccinating targeted populations is still the primary public health strategy in Montreal, said Dr. Mylène Drouin in a news conference Thursday. By contrast, Canada's director of public health, Dr. Theresa Tam, has asked men to limit their sexual contact with other men during the outbreak.

Drouin said Montreal is on the right track but public health is still carefully monitoring the situation and continuing vaccination efforts.

"We are on a plateau, but at the same time we want to stay really vigilant," said Drouin.

There have been 299 cases of monkeypox declared in Montreal since the beginning of May, and vaccination efforts seem to have been successful so far, with 13,250 people getting the shot, Drouin said.

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

The city currently has several vaccination sites, and one mobile unit, that look to reach those most at risk of contracting the virus.
 
Drouin said that, looking forward, it's important to be aware that other countries' responses to the virus will have an impact. The more vaccinated Montreal's population is, the more likely it is that the city's case numbers will remain stable.

Optimism for Montreal Pride

The director general of RÉZO, a community group for gay, trans and bisexual men, Alexandre Dumant Blais, said that vaccination efforts in the Gay Village are going well but that they "must continue."

In addition to its regular drug-intervention kiosk, which provides naloxone and drug-testing services to festival attendees, RÉZO will have vaccination locations in the Village throughout Montreal Pride. The organization has been working with public health authorities to reach marginalized and unvaccinated communities.

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

"For the past two months, our efforts at RÉZO have been paying off," he said.

Simon Gamache, executive director of Montreal Pride, seemed optimistic ahead of the festival. He said the collaborative approach that's been taken has reduced the potential for harm associated with monkeypox transmission at a large-scale festival.

"They've made Montreal one of the only cities in the world holding a Pride event this summer where a critical mass of festival-goers will be vaccinated against monkeypox."

Leaving stigma behind

Gamache said that Pride Montreal will continue to work with public health and RÉZO to get the vaccination message out "before, during, and after," the festival.

The targeted communication strategy adopted by the three groups toward men who have sex with men is part of ensuring that vaccinations reach the most at-risk populations without increasing stigmatization.

"Don't be afraid to talk about it with your partners and to get tested," said Dumant Blais, adding "We don't have time for stigmatization."

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