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Wake County Public Health vaccinates about 550 against monkeypox at walk-in clinic

News & Observer - 8/6/2022

Wake County Public Health staff vaccinated about 550 people against monkeypox at a walk-in clinic Saturday.

“We saw that we had a backlog of people calling on our line,” said Stacey Beard, who is Wake County’s external communications director. “And we needed to do something and try to – like in COVID – do a vaccine clinic.”

Staff cut off the line outside the Wake County Public Health Center around 1:30, when all of the doses were spoken for, Beard said. By that point, about 300 vaccines had been given, with about 250 people still in line.

About 30 residents were turned away, said Dara Demi, the communications director for Wake County.

Before the clinic, vaccines were available by appointment only, The N&O previously reported.

The clinic opened at 10 a.m., but Beard said residents started lining up at 5:45 a.m.

“We anticipate getting even more [vaccines] from the state,” Beard said. “So dosage is not the problem. It’s just getting the number of people that want them processed and with appointments.”

The county has increased the number of nurses who can give monkeypox vaccines, Beard told The N&O. Another clinic may take place in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, there were 95 confirmed monkeypox cases in North Carolina, per the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website.

Planning to get vaccinated

Monkeypox is a virus that manifests somewhat like a flu. Its main symptoms include swollen lymph nodes as well as a rash with bumps that fill with fluid and scab over.

President Joseph R. Biden declared monkeypox a public health emergency Thursday.

Men who have sex with other men are disproportionately affected by the viral outbreak, according to public health organizations including the NCDHHS, the N&O previously reported.

Grant Chambers, 31, learned about the clinic on social media after trying in vain to get a vaccine appointment.

“I called and called here for weeks,” said Chambers, who lives in Raleigh. “With the influx of calls, I couldn’t get anybody. I saw this, and it sounded like a sure thing.”

Vaccine infrastructure

By 2:30, most of those getting vaccines had been waiting for at least three hours.

Vanessa Freeman, 25, waited in line for four hours, but said it felt more like two.

“There were a lot of really cool people in line,” said Freeman, who traveled from Willow Spring for her shot. “It was a good time, now that it’s over.”

Freeman said the vaccine felt like “the lightest shot” she’d ever had.

“I want to go out and live my life,” she said, “and I don’t want to necessarily be scared that something’s going to happen by having a good time.”

The clinic drew on vaccination infrastructure created during the COVID-19 pandemic, Beard said.

“We had the Chick-Fil-A operational mode down,” Beard said. “The cones, the security guards.”

For Jordan Lawrence, 27, the clinic rang true to his experience getting COVID booster shots.

Both stood out to Lawrence, he said, as public health projects.

“I’m trying to protect myself and my family,” Lawrence said.

Addressing stigma

As they left the clinic, attendees emphasized that continued vaccine efforts should involve breaking stigma surrounding monkeypox and the LGBT+ community.

Some in the community, as well in as the public health community, worry that monkeypox vaccine messaging stigmatizes gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the N&O reported in July.

“This isn’t just a queer thing,” said Hailey Brumley, 26, who lives in Holly Springs. “As soon as the vaccine’s available to most of the population, I think that’s important for them to get it, and not think that they’re safe just because they’re straight.”

What’s next

Wake County will open additional monkeypox vaccine appointments on Monday. To sign up for one, residents can dial the new call center at 919-212-9398.

Starting Monday, residents can also fill out a survey at to see if they’re eligible for a vaccine.

Those who attended Saturday’s clinic can receive a second dose through the county in 28 days.

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