Dog vaccine

UK to offer some gay and bisexual men vaccines against monkeypox

LONDON (AP) — British health officials will begin offering vaccines to select men who have sex with men who are at the highest risk of catching monkeypox, in a bid to curb the largest outbreak disease beyond Africa.

Doctors may consider vaccination for some men most at risk of exposure, Britain’s health security agency said in a statement on Tuesday. The agency identified those most at risk as men who have sex with men and have multiple partners, participate in group sex, or frequent venues where sex takes place onsite.

“By expanding the supply of vaccines to people at high risk, we hope to break the chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak,” said the Health Security Agency’s head of immunization, Dr Mary Ramsay.

Last month, a top adviser to the World Health Organization said the outbreak of monkeypox beyond Africa had likely spread through the sexual activity of men at raves in Spain and in Belgium.

Vaccines were previously only available to health workers caring for patients with monkeypox or cleaners disinfecting areas contaminated with the virus. The vaccine was originally developed for smallpox, a related disease, but is believed to be around 85% effective against monkeypox.

To date, over 99% of monkeypox cases in Britain are in men, and the majority of these are in men who are gay, bisexual or who have sex with men. Scientists warn that anyone in close physical contact with someone infected with monkeypox or their clothes or bedding is at risk of contracting the disease, regardless of sexual orientation.

There are currently 793 cases of monkeypox in the UK, out of more than 2,100 cases in 42 countries around the world. No deaths beyond Africa have been reported.

Until last month, monkeypox had only caused major outbreaks in central and western Africa; the mainland has so far reported more than 1,500 cases and 72 suspected deaths in a separate outbreak. Vaccines have never been used in Africa to control monkeypox.

Last week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the continued spread of monkeypox in countries that had never seen the disease as “unusual and concerning”.

Tedros is convening a meeting of experts on Thursday to decide whether the growing outbreak of monkeypox warrants being declared a global emergency. This would give it the same designation as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing effort to eradicate poliomyelitis.