Doctor Kevin Huy was vaccinating people in Paris against Covid-19 as he answered a call for volunteers to vaccinate against a more recent global outbreak – monkeypox.
Now he is taking up arms at Checkpoint Paris, a sexual health center dedicated to LGBT people in the heart of the French capital.
Despite the shortage of people to administer vaccinations, the vaccination campaign is gaining momentum in the Paris region, which was the epicenter of the outbreak in France.
France has the fifth-highest number of monkeypox cases in the world – nearly 2,000, national health officials said on Friday.
More than 95 percent of monkeypox cases in France have occurred in men who have had sex with men, a group overwhelmingly affected by the virus.
Before May, the virus was mostly only observed in West and Central Africa.
But since then, more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been detected worldwide outside of Africa, most of them in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
On Monday, India reported its fourth virus-related death outside of Africa. France’s neighbor Spain recorded two deaths over the weekend.
The rising cases have pressured authorities to introduce doses of a smallpox vaccine that has been shown to protect against monkeypox.
– “Hit hard by Covid” –
Amelie Verdier, the head of Paris’ regional health agency, told AFP that since July 8, 25 new monkeypox vaccination centers have opened in the region, including the capital – 18 of them in the city itself.
As of Friday, more than 8,000 injections had been given in the region, accounting for 70 percent of all vaccinations in France. Around 5,000 of these injections were performed in the past week alone.
While acknowledging that early logistical issues may have delayed the initial launch, Verdier stressed that there is now no problem sourcing cans.
The problem has become finding people to use jabs in the guns.
“Healthcare professionals have been hit very hard by the Covid crisis,” she said.
Last week, the French government said it would mobilize more people to help with vaccinations, including health students.
Due to staff shortages, Checkpoint Paris was unable to meet demand for monkeypox vaccines.
“We were able to temporarily hire doctors, but it’s more difficult to recruit nurses,” said the center’s director, Sebastien Denglos.
Huy, a family doctor from the northern suburbs of Paris, was one of those doctors.
“I was already vaccinating against Covid in the 20th arrondissement of Paris when I saw in a WhatsApp group that more people were needed because of monkeypox,” he said.
The help was welcomed at the centre, which also fears it will struggle to administer the necessary second dose in time due to staff shortages.
However, the French health authorities have indicated that the 28-day period between the first and second doses can be extended.
Another schedule is imminent – the major evacuation in August from Paris for the summer holidays.
Arnaud, 22, went to Checkpoint Paris on Thursday to make an appointment for a jab the next day.
“I didn’t want to stay isolated at home and spoil the little vacation I have,” he said.
After the vaccination, he hopes to “spend a summer in relative peace.”
The WHO has emphasized that vaccination does not provide immediate protection against monkeypox infection. That can take weeks.
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