This time, Hruska, 40, used a planning portal for the new contractor, although the city has not announced that a new portal will be used, he said. It took him about seven steps to finally hit “submit” when getting an appointment in the portal, with the ability to be booted from the site at each step. He was unable to get a location, despite spending 2.5 hours refreshing multiple browsers.
City officials attributed the problems to high demand for the two-dose monkeypox vaccine, which is manufactured by Bavarian Nordic A/S and carries the brand name Jynneos.
Vaccines are available to “gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men and transgender, gender nonconforming, or gender nonconforming people ages 18 and older who have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners. in the last 14 days”. depending on the city.
The virus has so far disproportionately affected the city’s LGBTQ+ community, but anyone can become infected or spread it. Monkeypox is most commonly spread through direct contact with a rash or wounds of a person who has it.
Since June 23, only 7,000 doses have been made available to New Yorkers, although the Department of Health has said an additional 14,500 doses are expected to arrive later this week from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United. About one million people in New York identify as LGBTQ+ according to recent state data.
On Tuesday, 267 people in the city tested positive for the orthopoxvirus – all probable cases of monkeypox, city officials said.
“Due to overwhelming traffic, as soon as appointments went live this afternoon, the site sent error messages to many people who were unable to book appointments” , the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday. “We apologize for the frustration caused and are working to establish a stable appointment infrastructure as we roll out more appointments as vaccine supplies increase in the coming weeks.”
The new entrepreneur in town, Affiliated Physicians, is a Tribeca-based for-profit company that partners with employers to provide on-site preventative health services to their employees. A spokesperson for the company said it referred all requests for comment to the Department of Health.
The health department last worked with the company in 2019, awarding an $89,000 contract to conduct onsite wellness screenings for city employees, according to city records.
Its sister company, Elitra Health, offers a $5,000 comprehensive physical exam that takes five to six hours and includes advanced imaging and lab work, nutritional and lifestyle analysis, fitness assessment, a therapeutic massage and two meals.
Issues with the Affiliate Physicians platform echoed MedRite’s appointment booking rollout last week. The city signed a $5 million contract with MedRite last year to administer Covid-19 vaccines, then extended it to $36 million, contract records show.
In a prepared statement released last Wednesday, MedRite attributed the issues to a software error and said it took “full responsibility.”
“Within minutes, we realized the system was allowing more appointments than it was possible to match vaccines with,” the company said. “We quickly reassessed our planning system and updated it to meet the needs of the community. Providing New York with access through vaccine planning and administration is our top priority, and we are working around the clock to ensure our process meets that standard. »
MedRite has two dozen locations in the metro area and Florida and another dozen upcoming locations in those areas, according to its website.
In 2016, the company reached a $100,000 settlement with former state attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman for paying advertising agencies and freelance writers thousands of dollars to publish reviews. positive on consumer review websites, such as Yelp.
Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the city’s health department, said the city expanded MedRite’s contract because “as mass vaccination grew, obviously we needed more clinical services.” He said the Affiliate Physicians’ contract had also been amended but he could not immediately provide the updated contract amount.
City council member Lynn Schulman, who chairs the health committee, said she doesn’t think the federal government is providing the city with an adequate supply of vaccines, even though its rapidly growing case count is at least a fifth of the country’s total number of cases.
Schulman also spoke of a lack of testing for the infection.
“I’ve seen friends die because of government inaction [during the HIV/AIDS epidemic], and that gives me deja vu where the federal government is slow to react. They have the resources to do the testing, but there are no local testing options.
Schulman wrote a letter to the CDC on Monday identifying the lack of vaccines as the biggest hurdle for the city controlling the outbreak and asking for more federal support.
Mayor Eric Adams wrote a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking the administration to delay administering second doses of the vaccine to get the current supply to more people who need first doses.
“We have over 20% of the current cases in the United States and yet we have only received about 10% of the vaccine allocation,” the mayor wrote.
According to the city, the mayor and Dr. Vasan spoke with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC on Tuesday afternoon to address the city’s vaccine shortage. The mayor said the city is committed to fighting the outbreak fairly.
Jonathan Baker, a medical assistant who works at Laser Surgery Care in Chelsea, said the lack of testing was a major problem for his patients. His medical practice specializes in anorectal health and serves a population that is about 80% to 90% gay men, Baker estimates. Until two days ago, he said providers had to go through the state health department to get tests for patients who might have monkeypox, causing delays.
The state Department of Health handles vaccine distribution for counties outside of New York City, which receives its own allocation of vaccine doses from the CDC.
Baker’s practice has seen three cases of monkeypox so far, all of which originally resembled other sexually transmitted diseases, he said. The patients then developed the characteristic lesions of the infection all over their bodies, which are “so painful”, he said.
“Between presentations that don’t look like what we expect and difficulties in testing, we’re likely seeing a large undercount in the number of actual cases,” Baker said.
The most common symptom of monkeypox is a rash that looks like pimples or blisters that can progress to sores or lesions. This may be accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, and headache; people can contract the virus through sexual activity or physical contact. Most cases of monkeypox resolve on their own within a few weeks. People are contagious until all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed.
Baker, who identifies as a gay man, and Schulman have both spoken of the disappointment they feel with the federal response to the outbreak, especially since monkeypox has so far disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s particularly disappointing when we’ve spent the last year and a half preparing for Covid vaccines. You have a model for that. Why can’t we plug in this vaccine and use it?” says Boulanger.[The CDC] had the first webinar in May, and if they had released the vaccine then, we could have had people vaccinated a month before Pride. So it’s a huge missed opportunity.
Hruska, who lives in Brooklyn and identifies as a gay man, said he was very disappointed with what he sees as the city’s failure to inform the public. He thinks the current method of appointment scheduling prioritizes people with high-speed internet, who speak English as their first language, and can take time off work to refresh their browser.
“New York City can develop an app to pay for your parking tickets, but cannot design a user experience that distributes vaccination appointments fairly during any type of pandemic,” he said. “It is shameful.”