Citing “misinformation,” a Berkeley health department spokesperson told the Bay Area Reporter on Wednesday that people don’t need to pay for the monkeypox vaccine offered at Steamworks Bathhouse.
But after this article was published, several people contacted the newspaper to say that some Steamworks staff were apparently offering a one-day pass to get in and get vaccinated and that line moved faster.
Scott Davis was one of those who stood in line for eight hours on July 13.
“Your article has completely missed the point,” Davis wrote. “We were offered a one day membership with locker rentals to go inside to get vaccinated. It would cost $24. This queue moved faster by about 2 hours or more.
“So actually they were selling a fastpass. I arrived 2 hours earlier at 10:00 a.m. and got my chance at 6:00 p.m. While someone near me, when he passed through the queue with the offer, did it at 3:30 because he paid.” Davis added.
He recounted his experience on Twitter.
Davis said someone else’s experience was filmed by NBC Bay Area.
“Also, this was partially filmed in front of me: ‘Robert’ was next to me in line and twice challenged SW staff to sell faster access,” Davis wrote.
Steamworks chief executive Zose Newell told NBC Bay Area that there will be a line in future vaccination clinics.
Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city’s goal was to get high-risk populations vaccinated and that Steamworks had been “very helpful” in providing the Wednesday venue. vaccination clinics which run until August 3 and begin at noon.
“Today, 500 people were vaccinated,” Chakko said. “The vaccine is available to everyone, patron or not.”
Chakko explained that Steamworks was just providing the space; the vaccine comes from the state through a contractor.
Chakko added that he spoke with Steamworks management and that Larry Hickey, CEO of Steamworks Berkeley, was on hand to chat with people as they waited in line.
“You don’t need to be a member of Steamworks to get the vaccine,” Chakko said. “Steamworks management is clear on this; everyone is on the same page. I’m not aware of anything intentional from Steamworks.
“This narrative is gaining momentum and I don’t mean to stigmatize Steamworks in any way,” Chakko added. “We’re trying to make sure nobody has that perception.”
Walter Cheng was another person who was at Steamworks on Wednesday.
“I stood in line for the vaccine around 10:30 a.m. yesterday,” Cheng wrote in an email. “As many have said, 2 different Steamworks employees announced that people could buy entry to the club and ‘it might get you vaccinated faster’ (in their own words).
“However, in addition, there was an employee who distributed tickets to people queuing for vaccines,” Cheng added. “He got a phone call just as he was handing out tickets near me. I’m not sure who he was talking to, but I think it was other Steamworks staff. Indeed, he stated that the vaccines were obtained by Steamworks and that they had the right to distribute them as they wished.The person stated that the vaccines obtained were for members and implied that Steamworks was generous in giving them to others other people in the community.
Jose Luis Gandara also tweeted his experience after the BAR article was published. “At approximately 11:15 a.m. SW worker told people they were lining up inside, explicitly mentioned a shorter wait, and shared cost information. Deliberate profiteering,” Gandara tweeted.
Article of @cynlaird with quotes from @joegreaves averts the debacle of the steamworks. At around 11:15 a.m., an SW worker told people they were lining up inside, explicitly mentioned a shorter wait, and shared cost information. Deliberate profiteering. https://t.co/Y8fhtpJ0NZ— José Luis Gandara (he/him) (@JoseLGandara) July 14, 2022
Another man standing in line shared his observations.
Joe Greaves, the political action chairman of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, was standing in line himself when the BAR contacted him in the late afternoon. He said there were two queues at the gay bath: one for those queuing as customers and another for those not looking to spend time in the establishment.
“They split the tickets,” Greaves said, adding that while he didn’t think anyone had to pay for a vaccine, there was a perception of people who “jumped the line.” However, Greaves said the CEO was there and spoke to him.
“They’re doing a good job of handling the situation,” Greaves said.
Chakko said the city’s goal is to vaccinate as many high-risk people as possible with the limited vaccine available.
As BAR reports, while anyone can contract monkeypox through close personal contact, the vast majority of cases in the current outbreak are men who have sex with men.
Monkeypox virus is spread through close personal contact, including skin-to-skin contact, kissing, and short-distance respiratory droplets, but it is not airborne over longer distances like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It is not yet known whether monkeypox is transmitted in semen, but it is spread through contact with wounds during sex.
Related to smallpox but less serious, monkeypox causes flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. The sores, which can resemble common sexually transmitted infections such as herpes or syphilis, can appear anywhere on the body, including the throat, genitals, and anal area. Most people recover without treatment after a few weeks, but wounds can cause scarring and some patients have reported severe pain.
The Jynneos vaccine, which consists of two injections given one month apart, is currently out of stock. San Francisco health officials announced on July 13 that they were running out.
Chakko said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have non-pharmaceutical strategies that people can use until other vaccines become available. These include avoiding skin-to-skin contact with someone who may have a rash that looks like monkeypox and not kissing or having sex with someone who has monkeypox.
As BAR reported, in an email dated July 5, Steamworks management said the Berkeley Public Health Department informed them that “over the past month, some of our members have been a confirmed or probable case of monkeypox”. These members visited the bathhouse on May 27-29, June 3-4, June 10, and June 17.
No one answered the phone at Steamworks when the BAR called to seek comment from Hickey.
Updated 7/14/22: This article has been updated to include comments from other people queuing who reported that some Steamworks staff were offering faster access to the vaccine if they paid for a day subscription and rental of the vaccine. ‘a locker.
Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going during these difficult times. To support local, independent and LGBTQ journalism, consider become a member of the BAR.