The Yukon NDP is calling on the territorial government to step up its response to the monkeypox virus.
In an Aug. 29 release, the NDP says the Yukon government is failing to give proper healthcare to queer Yukoners, which is in turn contributing to the stigmatization of the virus and discrimination against people seeking support for it.
“What we’re hearing from men within the gay community is that when the first cases were announced, they went looking for access to the vaccine and essentially, they were told really inappropriate things by health care professionals, as opposed to, ‘Let us track down and see what we can do to get you the vaccine,’” NDP Leader Kate White said by phone Aug. 30.
“Someone who is in a high-risk category cannot access the vaccine currently.”
White calls it the “flip side” to the COVID-19 response, which encouraged mass vaccination.
“There should be zero shame in asking for [the vaccine]; there should be zero shame of getting it,” White said.
In the Yukon, vaccines may be offered to contacts of a known case of monkeypox to reduce their risk of severe disease.
The NDP says Yukoners who are at high risk of exposure are left without protection. The release indicates people who believe they may have been exposed to the virus are stuck navigating the process alone and in the dark.
On July 21, the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in the territory. The total case count for the territory is two, while the total number of confirmed cases in Canada is 1,228 as of Aug. 26, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s online dashboard.
The territorial government’s website states that human-to-human transmission can occur through close contact with respiratory droplets, skin lesions or contaminated objects from an infected person.
“In Canada, the majority of cases at this time are men who reported intimate sexual contact with other men,” reads the website.
“However, it’s important to stress that the risk of exposure to the monkeypox virus is not exclusive to any group or setting.”
The website indicates monkeypox is “usually a self-limited viral infection with a rash that may be painful” and most people will recover after a few weeks.
Symptoms typically develop five to 21 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms can last two to four weeks and may pass through different stages.
The rash can affect the mouth, genitals, perianal, face, feet, hands, arms and legs. Fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, back pain and exhaustion are additional symptoms that may accompany the rash.
The website directs people who have monkeypox symptoms to find out if they should get tested by contacting their health-care provider, family doctor, health-care centre or visit the emergency room.
A statement from cabinet communications indicates that protecting the health and safety of all Yukoners is the government’s priority.
“The Department of Health and Social Services and Yukon Communicable Disease Control continue to work closely with community partners to ensure Yukoners are aware of the risk factors associated with monkeypox, and to provide people the most up-to-date information available about preventing transmission,” reads the statement.
The statement indicates groups, including the queer community, who may be at a higher risk of exposure due to environmental, socioeconomic or health-related reasons have been directly contacted.
“We have worked with Yukon Status of Women Council and Queer Yukon to provide information, develop public messaging and answer questions about the status of monkeypox in the territory,” the statement says.
“The Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued public statements to update Yukoners about the risks of monkeypox, and continues to inform the government’s response. We will continue to work closely with community partners to protect the health and safety of Yukoners as the situation develops.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com