Latest figures confirm that over 25,000 people have been vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine, as part of the strategy to contain the monkeypox outbreak in the UK. According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), these vaccines, administered by the NHS to those at highest risk of exposure, “should have a significant impact on the transmission of the virus”.
While anyone can get monkeypox, cases in the UK are predominantly in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), with the virus being passed on in closely connected sexual networks, and so the smallpox vaccine is being prioritised for those men at higher risk of getting the virus, as well as some contacts of cases and some healthcare professionals.
As of August 10, around 27,000 people have been vaccinated by the NHS and in sexual health services in England, including 25,325 GBMSM. The remainder are those who have received the vaccine as part of the healthcare worker programme, and contacts of cases.
UKHSA has secured 150,000 doses for the UK from the global manufacturer of smallpox vaccines. According to UKHSA, the “initial delivery of around 50,000 doses – the maximum amount immediately available – has been rolled out at pace to provide as much protection to as many eligible people as possible”.
In a release, the health agency goes on to say there are, “global issues with supply due to vaccine availability and the necessary time to produce more vaccines. This means the further batch of 100,000 doses, which are being made to order, will be received later in September”. UKHSA say it is working with the manufacturer to expedite delivery as early as possible.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: “The most important way to protect those who are more likely to get monkeypox and to limit the outbreak is to ensure that all the vaccines available to us are in people’s arms as quickly as possible and are building protection across the community.
“I’d like to thank all those who have isolated as part of this outbreak in order to limit transmission of the virus, the thousands of people who have come forward for vaccination and all those in the NHS and sexual health services who have ensured the rapid delivery of the available vaccine – this has strengthened our response to the current outbreak and should interrupt chains of transmission.”
For more info on Monkeypox, read HIV/sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust’s guidance HERE