Monkeypox vaccines arrive in Australia as rollout begins to stop spread of disease

Monkeypox vaccines roll out across Australia in desperate effort to halt spread of painful disease

  • Australia is doling out monkeypox vaccines for the most vulnerable groups
  • These include gay, bisexual men and those who have sex with homeless men 
  • HIV positive people and some travellers are also eligible for the two jabs  
  • Disease is transmitted via skin-to-skin interaction but most people are not at risk

Australia is rolling out monkeypox vaccines, with three states now making a jab available for the rapidly-spreading painful disease. 

Victoria, NSW and South Australia are allocating the JYNNEOS smallpox jab to those most vulnerable. 

Gay and bisexual men are the groups most commonly contracting the illness, which is passed on through sustained close contact with an infected person, or with their clothing or bedding. 

‘Most people are not at risk from monkeypox,’ said Health Protection NSW executive director Jeremy McAnulty.

We’re particularly concerned that men who have sex with men are protected.’ 

Infection can occur through rashes, skin sores or blisters (pictured, a man with a case of monkeypox)

Infection can occur through rashes, skin sores or blisters (pictured, a man with a case of monkeypox)

Authorities are advising those at-risk groups to curb their number of sexual partners and to practice safe sex. 

Sex workers and those who have drug addiction issues are also more vulnerable, along with those who are HIV positive or otherwise immune suppressed.

Travellers who are flying out to the UK and North America before October 31 are also eligible.

Executive Director or Health Protection NSW Jeremy McAnulty (pictured) said the disease was passed on by skin-to-skin contact but most people were not at risk from it

Executive Director or Health Protection NSW Jeremy McAnulty (pictured) said the disease was passed on by skin-to-skin contact but most people were not at risk from it

Victoria is doling out the vaccines this week, while NSW is set to give 5,500 to those at high risk by Monday.

South Australia will also allocate 900 doses to those who most need it, with more for the general population months away. 

Monkeypox is related to the virus that causes smallpox but is less severe and does not transmit easily between humans. 

Infection can occur through rashes, skin sores or blisters and via bodily fluids and most cases resolve within two to four weeks without treatment.

However during the period of infection, the sufferer develops painful sores. 

The vaccine is given in two doses, 28 days apart and contains a live vaccinia virus, which is unable to replicate. 

Sexual Health Specialist Dr Nick Medland told GP News the aim is to slow transmission down. 

‘We expect the outbreak will begin to slow after 75,000 members of our community have had one dose of the vaccine and may not be eliminated until 250,000 doses have been administered to those who need them most,’ he said. 

Australia received 450,000 doses of the jab last week. 

A sexual health specialist said the aim was to slow transmission down (pictured,  a syringe drawing out the monkeypox vaccine)

A sexual health specialist said the aim was to slow transmission down (pictured,  a syringe drawing out the monkeypox vaccine)

Everything you need to know about monkeypox

Monkeypox is related to the virus that causes smallpox and occurs mostly in Central and West Africa.

It is less severe than smallpox and can be spread from infected animals to people, or from person to person. 

But monkeypox does not spread easily between people.

Transmission between humans occurs through close contact with rashes, blisters or sores on the skin.

The rash can vary from person to person and take on the appearance of pimples, blisters or sores, especially on the genital and perianal regions of affected people. 

Infection can pass between humans via body fluids, including respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing (this is less common and usually only happens if there is prolonged face-to-face contact)

It can also transmit via contaminated objects such as linen and towels. 

Monkeypox is usually not life-threatening. Infection with the virus usually causes a mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks.

It can also have more significant symptoms such as painful rash or sores in the throat or rectum. 

Some people can get severely unwell and suffer complications and potentially death. 

Young children and pregnant women are also at higher risks of developing complications.

Problems can include secondary infection, scarring, sepsis (infection of the blood stream), pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

A complete vaccination course with JYNNEOS® requires two doses, given at least 28 days apart, by injection.

People at high risk of monkeypox virus infection who have received a smallpox vaccine dose more than ten years ago are recommended to receive only one dose of the new monkeypox jab.

People who have had monkeypox virus infection during this outbreak are not recommended to be vaccinated at this time as they are likely to have immune protection from their infection.

There are no studies directly assessing the effectiveness of JYNNEOS® in people infected with the smallpox virus or the monkeypox virus.

However, studies have shown that people given it produced antibodies to a level expected to provide protection against smallpox. 

Maximum protection occurs around two weeks after the second dose of this vaccine. 

Common side effects reported  after receiving the vaccine include: injection site pain, redness, swelling or itch, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, nausea,  chills and fever 

Source: Health.gov.au, GP News

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