Skip to content

North Shore monkeypox vaccine clinics kick off during Pride Week

Virus 'on the radar' of LGBTQ community. Those at risk can book appointment for vaccine in VCH.
LV Rainbow Crossing Pride PM web
Gary Fluffer (left) and "Conni Smudge" aka Chris Bolton celebrate Pride Week in July 2021. This year monkeypox is part of the conversation, says Bolton.

As Pride Week moves into full swing on the North Shore this week, Vancouver Coastal Health is offering monkeypox vaccines at clinics in both North and West Vancouver for the first time for people who may be at risk from the virus in the LGBTQ community.

Monkeypox vaccine clinics are happening at the Parkgate Community Health Centre in North Vancouver and Gleneagles Community Health Centre in West Vancouver for those eligible ­gay and bisexual men, transgender people and men who have sex with men and who meet certain criteria putting them at risk.

Other pop-up vaccination clinics are also happening throughout Metro Vancouver in conjunction with Pride Week festivities.

While Pride Week is firmly focused on celebration, North Shore Pride Alliance spokesman Chris Bolton said the issue of monkeypox is definitely on the radar this year in the LGBTQ community.

Monkeypox is 'top of mind'

“It’s top of mind for everyone I’ve spoken to,” said Bolton. “We’ve really got to be on top of these things.”

”Everyone I know is either scheduled for a vaccine or to talk to their doctor.”

As of July 27, there were 58 confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus in B.C., primarily within the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

The first cases of monkeypox were identified in VCH in early June, linked to travel outside of B.C. Since then, more cases have been identified, linked to local transmission of the virus.

While the virus is not sexually transmitted, it is spread through close contact. Worldwide, 98 per cent of cases have been among gay and bisexual men. In B.C. all of the cases so far have been among men who self-identify as having sex with men and has been spread through “prolonged skin-to-skin contact,” according to VCH.

Because there are limited amounts of the vaccine available, B.C. is targeting the doses at those most at risk in the LGBTQ community.

Virus brings up memories of AIDS crisis

Bolton said the emergence of a new virus in the LGBTQ community brings up many emotions for him.

“I came out of the closet in the heat of the AIDS crisis,” he said.

“I was 21, 22 years old. And by the time I was 25, I've been to 39 funerals.”

Bolton remembers well when HIV/AIDS was considered “the gay cancer” and many of those suffering were socially ostracized. It was the efforts of LGBTQ activists that eventually turned that thinking around, said Bolton. “We created an alliance and stopped the dirty stigma,” he said.

Today it’s just as important for the community to stand together and arm itself with information to stop the spread of monkeypox, he said.

Beating negative stigma key

“So we have to stand up and sort of inoculate ourselves and get educated and just stop the negative stigma of it all,” he said. “Information is power. Really, that’s what it all comes down to.”

This week marks the first week the monkeypox vaccine clinics have opened on the North Shore.

So far this month, nurses have administered over 6,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine throughout the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

This week, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, also spoke about the applying the lessons learned from the HIV crisis to the current monkeypox situation, saying engaging communities most impacted will be the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

Tam said public health officials have been working with the LGBTQ community and with apps like Grindr to make sure men who have sex with men have information about how to protect themselves from the disease and how to access the vaccine.