Worries of LGBTQ stigma in Maricopa County with monkeypox vaccine eligibility

The vaccine is currently limited to those at higher risk of being exposed. It includes gay or bisexual men, cis or trans men, or trans women.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 8:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- With monkeypox cases on the rise, demand for the vaccine in Maricopa County has increased too. However, the county health department guidelines say it’s only available for members of the LGBTQ community, which some say is a fine line between helping those most at risk and creating a stigma around it.

Currently, there are only 50 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Arizona, though it’s growing by the week. While it’s rarely fatal, it can be severe and extremely painful. One health director who’s found himself in the middle of it all wants to remind people this disease can happen to anyone.

Taylor Piontek is on the medical side of monkeypox at the Southwest Center. “We just had a case today that I think, it’s not confirmed positive, but I think is probably presumptive positive,” Piontek said.

Piontek is also part of the LGBTQ community eligible for the vaccine in Maricopa County and got vaccinated himself. “I was very proud to see how well represented we were and just kind of the action everyone took,” Piontek said. “The second clinic they ended up running out of vaccines before they were even done with clinic because they had such a high turnout. I know people were waiting in line for 2 and a half hours at least.”

As of Friday, July 29th, Maricopa County reported 37 of the state’s 50 confirmed cases and 16 more that are probable, with those numbers continuing to grow. Symptoms can include fever, achiness, chills, and most recognizable, a rash that may be near the genitals or on other areas like the chest, face or mouth.

The county is trying to combat it by hosting several clinics to administer a vaccine that is still limited, but it’s only available here for those at higher risk of being exposed. It includes gay or bisexual men, cis or trans men, or trans women.

But the reality is it’s spread through skin-to-skin contact and can be serious in anyone who gets infected, regardless of sexual orientation. “Anybody who is sexually active could come into contact with it potentially,” Piontek. “Very, very painful. Sometimes requiring narcotic pain medication to kind of help with it.”

Piontek said it can be tough to educate people who look at vaccine eligibility and associate monkeypox with the LGBTQ community only. “As a healthcare provider I kind of go back and forth because if you are at a higher risk, then it is important for you to be aware that you fall into that category,” said Piontek. “I just think we all as a community need to remember that we’re all human beings and what other people may do shouldn’t affect you to the extent that you have some type of stigma or hatred towards them.”


Monday, August 8th - ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA APPLY (to learn more about criteria click here).


MCDPH Immunization Clinic

1645 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix