By Anna Ellis • 21 June 2022 • 17:32
UK: Monkeypox vaccine to be offered more widely to help control outbreak. Credit Wikimedia
Although anyone can contract monkeypox, data from the latest outbreak shows higher levels of transmission within, but not exclusive to, the sexual networks of gay and bisexual men.
The virus is not currently defined as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by close and intimate contact that occurs during sex.
In response, the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) vaccination strategy recommends offering the smallpox vaccine Imvanex, which is shown to be effective against monkeypox, to men considered to be at higher risk of exposure.
The strategy is endorsed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which was consulted on the eligibility criteria for the vaccine.
An individual’s eligibility would depend on a number of factors but would be similar to the criteria used to assess those eligible for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but applied regardless of HIV status.
The strategy states that a clinician may advise vaccination for someone who, for example, has multiple partners, participates in group sex or attends ‘sex on premises’ venues.
NHS England is due to set out details on how eligible people can get vaccinated shortly. People are advised not to come forward for the vaccine until contacted.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA, said: “Our extensive contact tracing work has helped to limit the spread of the monkeypox virus, but we are continuing to see a notable proportion of cases in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.”
“By expanding the vaccine offer to those at higher risk, we hope to break chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak,” Dr Ramsay added.
“Although most cases are mild, severe illness can occur in some people, so it is important we use the available vaccine to target groups where spread is ongoing.”
He confirmed: “The NHS will soon set out details on how this will be delivered – so do not come forward for the vaccine yet.”
“In the meantime, everyone should continue to be alert to any new spots, ulcers or blisters on any part of their body, particularly if they’ve had close contact with a new partner.”
Dr Ramsay finished by saying: “If you think you have these symptoms, avoid close contact with others.”
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Originally from the UK, Anna is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]
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