The Government have announced that the Monkeypox vaccine is set to be offered to a wider range of people, following the publication of the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Monkeypox vaccination strategy.
The new data advises that transmission rates are elevated within the sexual networks of gay and bisexual men. The virus is as yet not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, although it can be passed on via the close and intimate contact that occurs during sex.
The new strategy outlines how a vaccination may be advised for someone who has multiple partners, participates in group sex or regularly attends ‘sex on premises’ venues.
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. 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. 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. If you think you have these symptoms, avoid close contact with others and call NHS 111 or your local sexual health centre, though please phone ahead before attending.”
This new strategy has been endorsed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, with NHS England expected to detail guidance on how eligible people can get the vaccine shortly.
Alex Sparrowhawk, Health Promotion Specialist at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This targeted vaccination programme is a positive move forward while the data still shows Monkeypox is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men in the UK.
“We encourage everyone, regardless of their sexuality, to be vigilant about new spots, ulcers and blisters. We are continuing to closely monitor the latest data in order to play our part in providing the latest guidance and health information on Monkeypox, to empower the communities most affected to best protect their health.”
More information about the new Monkeypox vaccination strategy is available here.