A Halifax man who flew to Montreal to get the monkeypox vaccine wants Nova Scotia to take a more proactive approach to protecting people from the virus, even though no cases have been reported here.
David Gosine became worried about contracting monkeypox when he saw the number of cases rising elsewhere in the country.
More than 500 cases have now been officially reported across five provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. Public health officials in New Brunswick also say there was a suspected case in that province in June.
Monkeypox spreads through close, prolonged contact and can impact anyone, but many infections have involved men who have sex with men.
"I am a member of the LGBT community and am one who has sexual relations with men and can see it as a potential issue that we're faced with in our community in Nova Scotia," Gosine told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Monday.
He wants the province to make the monkeypox vaccine available for members of the LGBTQ community through sexual health centres, like other provinces have done.
Listen to David Gosine's full interview with Maritime Noon:
People infected with monkeypox can feel flu-like symptoms such as a fever, intense headache, swelling of the lymph nodes and muscle aches. They may also develop painful rashes and lesions.
At first, Gosine didn't realize how difficult it would be to get the shot in Nova Scotia. He called a couple of clinics and asked his family practitioner, but no one could help.
So he decided to fly to Montreal last week specifically to get the shot, after hearing that some of his friends had done the same. He said it was easy to book one of the many available appointments online.
Because he's returning to Montreal on holiday later this summer Gosine said he qualified to receive the vaccine in that city.
Santé Montreal's vaccine eligibility includes all men, including transgender men, who work or volunteer at an event or gathering where socialization and or sexual activity occurs between men.
"I'm not the one to be a sitting duck," Gosine said. "I think if it's possible to do it before, why would we not do it and make sure that our vulnerable communities are protected? That's my question to public health."
Vaccine reserved for people at highest risk
The province says Health Canada has a limited supply of the vaccine called Imvamune that protects against monkeypox.
Canada initially authorized Imvamune for use against smallpox in case the disease ever resurfaced. The vaccine is now used for monkeypox since they're part of the same family of viruses.
Both the World Health Organization and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommend people receive two doses of Imvamune, 28 days apart.
"Due to the fact that the vaccine is not widely available and there is no known transmission of monkeypox in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia is reserving the vaccine for people who are at highest risk of infection," a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness said in an email to CBC News.
Public health may recommend the vaccine to people who are close contacts of a person with monkeypox, the spokesperson added.
Gosine doesn't want Nova Scotia to wait until the virus is already spreading to inoculate people.
"Proactive health care in Canada needs to be more focused on," he said. "I know it's hard with the public system, but it's possible."
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