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Donnelly announces monkeypox advisory group headed by CMO

Last month the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Professor Breda Smyth
Professor Breda Smyth
Image: Sam Boal/

Updated Aug 18th 2022, 2:20 PM

MINISTER FOR HEALTH, Stephen Donnelly and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Frank Feighan  have announced the establishment of a Strategic Advisory Group on monkeypox.

Its goal is to advise the government on how best to respond to the monkeypox outbreak, as well as monitoring the evidence on the disease’s spread.

The group will be chaired by the Interim Chief Medical Officer, Professor Breda Smyth and its membership includes experts from multiple disciplines including from public health, infectious disease and immunology fields.

As well as Professor Smyth, the group will have 15 other members who will not receive additional remuneration or allowance for their contribution, and all minutes of meetings will be publicly available.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One today, Professor Smyth said that Ireland received 1,400 vaccine doses in July from a joint initiative with other EU countries and that 54,000 doses will be divided between this group by December.

“In the meantime, I would advise anyone that self-identifies themselves as being at high risk to – if they’re offered the vaccine – to attend their appointment.”

“We ask that they would avoid premises that may be high risk premises or high risk events. We know monkeypox is transmitted through skin to skin infection. So any of these elements can reduce your risk of actually getting the infection,” she said.


Professor Smyth added that she didn’t expect hospitals to be under pressure due to monkeypox because of the 113 cases in Ireland in the past 11 weeks, only four had been hospitalised.

“We’re seeing about 10 cases per week. So it’s a much lower case load than we would have seen in the Covid outbreak.”

Earlier today a HSE clinical lead said that the current supply of monkeypox vaccines for around 600 people is “not where any of us want to be, but that is where we are”.

The health service announced yesterday that it would widen the monkeypox vaccination availability to around 10% of the 6,000 people who may be at heightened risk of infection. 

Clinical Lead of the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Professor Fiona Lyons, said the HSE had to quickly identify the people who would benefit most from the vaccine due to limited supply. 

She told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland programme: “At this point in time, between now and year end, as of today we can only offer vaccines to approximately 600 individuals.

“So that is not where Ireland wants to be, where the community wants to be, that is not where the Department of Health, the HSE, any of us want to be, but that is where we are.”

Professor Lyons said vaccines will be offered to those who have received a notification of early infectious syphilis through the National Surveillance System for Infectious Diseases between December last year and July this year. 

This is the “quickest” and most “practical” way to proceed with vaccine plans, she added. 

The HSE has also stated that this group is being prioritised because the nature of the spread of syphilis is similar to that of monkeypox, and syphilis also disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men who have sex with men.

The health service will contact people eligible for the vaccine directly in the coming days to receive the jabs over the next few months. 

The HSE is implementing National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice to vaccinate people at risk before they are exposed to the virus.

The 600 people prioritised for vaccination will receive two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart as per the NIAC guidelines.

“Ireland, along with other EU countries is actively exploring options to increase our medium to long-term supply of vaccines,” the HSE statement said yesterday.

“Based on current indications in relation to global supplies of vaccines the second phase of vaccine roll out in Ireland is likely to commence later this year and into next year.”

To date, the HSE has offered to those who are close contacts of cases of monkeypox following assessment by public health. 

HIV Ireland welcomed yesterday’s announcement but called on the government to take urgent action to procure additional vaccine stock. 

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