Monkeypox Vaccine Comes to Fire Island

By Timothy Bolger
Suffolk County officials recently rolled out the monkeypox vaccine in Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines – the first place in the county to get the shots due to the virus’ prevalence in the gay community.

Demand was high, as evident by all 750 of the first appointments being booked within an hour of the online portal being activated on July 11, officials said. Northwell Health hosted the initial six pop-up clinics at two locations across four days from July 14-17, with additional pop-ups planned after another 1,750 doses were announced July 15 during a news conference at the Sayville ferry dock. They included Northwell Health Physician Partners on Doctors Walk in Cherry Grove, as well as Fire Island Pines Community House/ Whyte Hall located on Fire Island Blvd.

The county will continue coordinating additional clinics as more doses become available and Suffolk seeks to contain the spread after the first few local cases were reported.

“While Suffolk County has a handful of confirmed monkeypox cases, I want to reiterate that this is not cause for alarm or panic,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “As vaccine production ramps up, we will expand our operations to ensure that anyone who wants to get vaccinated is able to.”

Suffolk had four confirmed cases of monkeypox and Nassau had one as of July 15, when there were 490 cases across New York State and 1,053 nationwide, according to state and federal data. Suffolk officials confirmed the first case on July 1, but did not specify where within the county the local patients reside. Health officials have said that infections are spreading among gay men, which is why the first doses are going to the LGBTQ communities on eastern Fire Island.

“This is a public health issue and we need to stop the spread,” David Kilmnick, executive director of the LGBT Network, told reporters on July 8 during a news conference at the advocacy group’s Hauppauge office while announcing the vaccines with Bellone. “Education and awareness is going to be an important part to getting the word out to Long Island’s LGBT communities. If people are at risk and are eligible, they need to go get the vaccine.”

While life continued on as normal in the Pines and Grove on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, monkeypox loomed over the fun, as revelers had the infection on their minds.

“We’ve been scarred by COVID and we’re keeping a close look at the numbers, but I saw on the news that the [monkeypox] numbers are nowhere near a pandemic,” said one man in Cherry Grove who spoke on the condition that his name not be published. “Although they’re rising, if I’m offered a vaccine, I’m gonna take it.

For anyone who had not already heard, health officials hung signs on Fire Island to help raise awareness in the community. The signs featured a QR code linking to a website offering information about the virus.

“Monkeypox: Protect your community and the people you party or play with,” read a rainbow-color state Department of Health poster hung in Cherry Grove on July 10, the day before the first pop-up clinic in that community. “Know the signs and symptoms.”

Symptoms of the rare viral infection include rashes, bumps or blisters on or around the genitals, hands, feet, chest or face. It can also have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and fatigue. Those symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all, according to health experts. It does not usually cause serious illness but can result in hospitalization or death. No fatal cases have been reported locally.

Monkeypox is spread through close, physical contact with individuals suffering from the virus, their sores or rashes. It can also be spread through respiratory droplets or oral fluids from someone with monkeypox, particularly for those who have close contact with someone or are around them for a long period of time. And it can be spread through contact with clothing, bedding, towels or other objects that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

The state-issued eligibility requirements for getting the monkeypox vaccine includes recent exposure to monkeypox within the past 14 days, those at high risk of a recent exposure to and who have engaged in intimate or skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days in areas where monkeypox is spreading, and men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, app or social event, such as a bar or party, health officials said.

To learn more about the monkeypox vaccine visit,