Thousands of monkeypox vaccines will be made available in Australia next week – here’s how to find out if you are eligible
- The government is set to announce plans for a monkeypox vaccine rollout
- Vulnerable Australians could be vaccinated against monkeypox from next week
- There are 53 cases of monkeypox reported in Australia and 25,000 globally
Vulnerable Australians could receive a vaccine for monkeypox as soon as next week as the government looks to combat growing case numbers.
There have been 53 cases of monkeypox reported in Australia and 25,000 across the world.
Australia currently has a stockpile of the ACAM2000 monkeypox vaccine, which can be used before or after exposure to the virus.
Health Minister Mark Butler has confirmed that the government has now secured additional doses, which can be used before or after exposure to monkeypox.
‘We’ve secured supplies of new third generation vaccines,’ he said in a statement.
WHO’S ELIGABLE FOR A MONKEYPOX VACCINE IN AUSTRALIA
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has listed five key groups that are eligible for the vaccine.
- Anyone considered high risk of being in contact with monkeypox in the past 14 days, such as healthcare workers, laboratory staff who work with the smallpox or monkeypox virus
- Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who have a high number of sexual contacts or live with HIV
- Sex workers, particularly those whose clients are in high-risk categories
- Anyone in the above categories who is planning travel to a country where there is a significant outbreak
- Immunisation providers who are administering the ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine
The federal government is set to make an announcement on Thursday about a monkeypox vaccine rollout in Australia (stock image)
Further details about the vaccine rollout are set to be announced later today, but they will likely be administered by the states and territories to those vulnerable to the virus.
ATAGI has recommended vaccination be considered for select groups including men who have sex with men with a high number of sexual contacts, and sex workers.
Monkeypox is transmitted through close physical contact, with the majority of cases being men who have sex with men.
Identifiable symptoms include unusual rashes or lesions appearing on the skin.
People who contract monkeypox are required to isolate until their sores fully clear, which can be up to 21 days.
In May, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant sent out a warning for gay men in particular to watch out for symptoms – which include unusual rashes – and seek immediate help if worried.
In May, NSW’s chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant sent out a warning for gay men in particular to watch out for the symptoms and seek immediate help if worried
‘We know it’s transmitted by that close skin to skin contact – you can be infectious and that close droplet contact in a very sort of close prolonged way,’ Dr Chant said.
‘We’re particularly urging men who are gay or bisexual, or men who have sex with men, to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact by phone a sexual health clinic or GP without delay if they have any concerns.’
The rare tropical disease is transmitted through close physical contact. It has been predominant amongst men who have sex with men (stock image)
Nurses and doctors are being advised to stay ‘alert’ to patients who present with a new rash or scabby lesions (like above)
MONKEYPOX: Strain ‘spreads sexually’ and is as deadly as the original Wuhan Covid variant – but a jab exists
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which people usually pick up in the tropical areas of west and central Africa.
It is usually spread through direct contact with animals such as squirrels, which are known to harbour the virus.
However, it can also be transmitted through very close contact with an infected person.
Monkeypox was first discovered when an outbreak of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research in 1958.
The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the infection has been reported in a number of central and western African countries since then.
Only a handful of cases have been reported outside of Africa until now and they were confined to people with travel links to the continent.
How deadly is it?
Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment. Yet, the disease can prove fatal.
However it can kill up to 10 per cent of people it infects.
The milder strain causing the current outbreak kills one in 100 — similar to when Covid first hit.
Monkeypox shuts down some aspects of your body’s ability to fight infections.
Because of the presence of other viruses and bacteria which your body can’t fight off, in the worst cases patients can succumb to a lethal shock throughout the body and blood poisoning.
Death is more likely to occur in younger patients. The skin lesions are painful and disfiguring, and can be the source of further infections.
Health chiefs have warned monkeypox, a virus endemic in parts of Africa and is known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and lesions, could also spread to some pets and become endemic in Europe. Undated handout file image issued by the UK Health Security Agency of the stages of Monkeypox
Is there a cure?
Because monkeypox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, jabs for smallpox can also protect people from getting monkeypox.
One vaccine, Imvanex, was shown to be around 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox infection.
Antivirals and pooled blood from individuals vaccinated against smallpox can be used to treat severe cases.
How does it spread?
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection by nature, though it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.
Contagious lesions, through which infections are most likely to be passed on, can appear on any part of the body.
The infection can also be passed on through contact with clothing or linens used by an infected person.
Until now, monkeypox had only ever been detected in four countries outside of Africa – the UK, US, Israel and Singapore.
And all of those cases had travel links to Nigeria and Ghana.
Are gay men at greater risk?
Most of the British and Spanish cases are gay or bisexual men, which officials say is ‘highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks’.
The sexuality of patients in other countries has not been disclosed.
Health chiefs in the UK have issued a direct plea to men who have sex with men, telling them to come forward if they develop a rash on their face or genitals.
What are the symptoms?
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
But its most unusual feature is a rash that often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body, commonly the genitals, hands or feet.
The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
What do I do if I have symptoms?
Anyone worried that they could be infected with monkeypox is advised to make contact with clinics ahead of their visit.
Health chiefs say their call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially.