Group addresses ‘huge inequity’ in monkeypox vaccine rollout by offering vaccines at UK Black Pride

In the photograph on the left, people line up behind a sign at UK Black Pride that reads 'Free monkeypox vaccine here'. The image on the right is a still from a video in which Dr Will Nutland speaks to the camera while wearing a white shirt, red handkerchief and dark baseball cap

A not-for-profit team gave free monkeypox vaccines to attendees at UK Black Pride to address the “huge inequity” in who is able to get the vaccine. 

Dr Will Nutland – co-founder of Team PrEPster, a project of The Love Tank CIC – told PinkNews that the group brought supplies of monkeypox vaccine to UK Black Pride Sunday (14 August) after noticing a disparity in who was able to get the vaccine

“We know there’s huge inequity in who’s getting the vaccine,” Dr Nutland said. “We’ve seen great super vaccination events happening at places like Guy’s on London Bridge.”

Dr Nutland continued: “We also see from that the vast majority of people who are in line for the monkeypox vaccine have been white, cis gay men. 

“So we wanted to try to address some of those health inequities by working with our colleagues from Barts Health and Homerton to make sure we could get vaccine right into the place for those people who currently haven’t been first in line to get it.

Just a while after opening the mobile vaccination centre, the PrEPster team reported on Twitter that there were more people in the queue “than there is vaccine available” – despite managing to get 10 per cent of “London’s available” vaccines to the event. 

“We did our best and got 10% of London’s available vax here,” the team wrote. “Thanks for the support!”

UK Black Pride is the biggest Pride celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern-descent across the whole of Europe. 

The theme of UK Black Pride 2022 is “Power”, and this year’s event has been epic as crowds of LGBTQ+ people and allies crowded Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London to celebrate the power of the community. 

Dr Lady Phyll, the co-founder and CEO of UK Black Pride, described in a blog post how UK Black Pride is “eternally indebted to the loving power of the Black queer women who founded and maintain” the event and to “those who continue to show up in spirit and flesh to ensure” the communities have a Pride celebration “all their own”. 

“We are grateful to those who express power rooted in a firm belief that equality is not a pipe dream or a nice-to-have, and those who harness their power to positively impact the lives of those who have been left behind and forgotten,” she wrote. 

She continued: “We honour the power our communities continue to wield to ensure that our communities are defended and supported, loved and protected. 

“The world will continue to shift beneath our feet and we will continue fighting on uncertain terrain for our futures. And we will do this together, because our power is unique, beautiful and necessary. Our power will change the world.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “delighted that thousands of people will unite” to celebrate UK Black Pride and the power of the community. 

“London is a city where we celebrate our diversity, but we know there is still so much to do at home and abroad to ensure that everyone is treated equally and has a stake in society,” Khan said. 

“By gathering together today, members of our Black LGBTQI+ communities and allies will unite in celebration and send a message to the world about the power of equality.”

Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney was spotted by PinkNews at UK Black Pride. Finney, who will also be playing an openly trans character on Doctor Who, wished everyone a “happy Pride” as she embodied all that is fierce in a gorgeous black dress and joyfully waved a trans Pride fan. 

Labour MP Dawn Butler also attended the event and stopped by the tent for trans youth organisation Mermaids. Several other LGBTQ+ organisations showed up in droves to the event as well. 

There are 2,914 confirmed and 103 highly probably monkeypox cases in the UK as of 8 August, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Of these, 2,883 are in England. 

Dr Sophia Makki, national incident director at UKHSA, said the current vaccine rollout will “further strengthen” the UK’s monkeypox response and urged “all those who are eligible for the vaccine to take it up when offered”. 

However, there have been concerns that the UK will be without monkeypox vaccine doses in just a few weeks. 

Ceri Smith, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, previously told PinkNews it’s “concerned” about the modelling the UKHSA has produced on vaccination. Smith said the plan is to “vaccinate around 60,000 to 75,000 people in total” when taking into account the number of vaccines the UK government ordered. 

“But we, and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), have estimated that we may need to vaccinate 125,000 people,” Smith said.

A large shipment of vaccines is expected in September, but Smith was concerned this still won’t be enough to vaccinate and protect everyone in at-risk groups.