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Maine's first large-scale monkeypox vaccine clinic held in Ogunquit Friday

monkeypox clinic.jpg
Patty Wight
Maine Public
Kyle Holmquust of Local Roots Health Care preps monkeypox vaccine doses at the Dunaway Community Center in Ogunquit, Maine on Friday August 5, 2022.

On Friday in Ogunquit, dozens of people lined up for a monkeypox vaccine clinic at the Dunaway Community Center well before it got underway at noon. It was the first large scale clinic in the state aimed at curbing the disease.

"I said well, this is the only clinic available. I will be there," says Stephen Folse, who lives in Wells. "Being a gay man, I'm probably going to come in contact with someone who's been in contact with someone, or in a crowded room with a bunch of other men. And that seems to be the prime demographic now until it gets out in the public, so I want to jump ahead, just like I did with the coronavirus."

Monkeypox can affect anyone, but it's currently circulating in the gay community among men who have sex with other men. It spreads through skin-on-skin contact, or touching clothing, bedding or other material that has been in contact with the infectious rash.

Kyle Holmquist, a nurse practitioner at Local Roots Health Care who organized the clinic with the Maine CDC, says there's a lot of misinformation about the disease.

"It's not an STD. This is not the first outbreak in the U.S. either. There was an outbreak in 2003 in the Midwest that had nothing to do with the population that's currently affected. It's important to remember this isn't a gay disease either. The reason we're focusing on vaccinating men who have sex with other men is because that's the population that's most affected at this time," he says.

Vaccines for the monkeypox have been in short supply, but Holmquist says it has getting better each week. Maine has received more than 750 doses so far and the Biden administration recently declared monkeypox a national public health emergency, which will accelerate efforts to combat the outbreak. It has spread to all but two states since the first case was identified in Massachusetts in May.

Maine's numbers are low so far, with three cases reported by the state CDC in York, Penobscot and Aroostook counties. But many of the people who came to the clinic in Ogunquit, including Ian Kerr of Portland, say they don't want to take chances.

"Because it looks not fun. And yeah, I just want to be like super safe and not give it to any of my family or friends if I was to get it. So I just feel like I'm trying to be super responsible," he says.

Holmquist says he expects the monkeypox outbreak will likely get worse before it gets better, but he hopes events like the walk-in clinic will slow its progression.