Monkeypox: Around 600 people to receive vaccine during first phase of wider rollout

Services will contact this group in the coming days and the HSE aims to deliver two doses 28 days apart.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 17th 2022, 5:33 PM

THE HSE IS now widening the monkeypox vaccination process and estimates it will vaccinate 10% of the 6,000 people who may be at heightened risk of infection. 

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

A statement issued this evening by the HSE read: 

The HSE estimates that around 6,000 people may be at heightened risk of monkeypox infection.  Current vaccine supplies will allow vaccination for around 10% of these individuals in the first phase of the vaccine rollout. 

The HSE adds that it is working with teams around the country  to quickly put a process in place to identify and call forward these people for vaccination. 

Services will begin to contact these people directly in the coming days and it is expected that people identified will receive the vaccine over the coming weeks, with the confidentiality of these individuals being protected. 

“The HSE has developed a process of prioritising people for vaccination. At this time, supplies of vaccine in Ireland and in the EU are low and limited.”

Ireland, along with other EU countries is actively exploring options to increase our medium to long-term supply of vaccines.  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 been offering vaccine to those who are close contacts of cases of monkeypox following assessment by public health and these people have been contacted and invited for vaccination.

As of last Wednesday there were 101 cases of monkeypox in Ireland.

The HSE has said it sought the advice and guidance of clinical and ethical experts to develop a plan for the initial offer of the limited supply of vaccines currently available.  

Given the current limited vaccine supply, and following detailed clinical discussions the HSE will prioritise the vaccine for gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and transgender people.

From this cohort, prioritisation will be given to people who have had a notification to the HSE’s Infectious Disease Monitoring system of early infectious syphilis (EIS) between December 2021 and July 2022.

The HSE have 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 gbMSM when compared to other STIs. 

These 600 people will receive two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart as per the NIAC guidelines.

Services will begin to contact these people directly in the coming days and it is expected that people identified will receive the vaccine over the coming weeks.

HIV Ireland has welcomed the announcement but is calling on the Government to take urgent action to procure additional vaccine stock.

MPOWER programme manager with HIV Ireland, Adam Shanley said:

“Due to the limited supply, vaccines will reach less than 10% of those identified by NIAC as most in need, falling far short of what is required to bring this outbreak to an end.”

“The longer our community is made to wait for vaccination, cases will continue to rise and anxiety among gbMSM will increase.”

“Sexual health services, already overburdened, will now be required to shoulder vaccination delivery,” he concluded.

ACTUP Dublin (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an international HIV Activist organisation, voiced dissappointment with the vaccine rollout plan in a statement this evening.

“The inclusion criteria for those eligible for phase one of the vaccination programme does not appear to be grounded in any publicly accessible evidence. Vaccinating only 10% of the most at-risk populations will have a limited impact on further spread.”

“The HSE has provided no clear or transparent timeline, as to when subsequent phases of the vaccination programme will be rolled out,” the group said.

ACT UP Dublin member Holly Shortall said that the government was treating sufferers of monkeypox less favourably than those who had caught Covid-19.

“We contacted Heather Humphrey’s office imploring her to introduce an enhanced illness benefit for people who have monkeypox. The response was that the Department of Social Protection is not considering a specific benefit scheme as it ‘considers that the existing provision is adequate.’”

“We need to remember that a public health emergency has been declared and people are being asked to isolate as a public health measure, rather than to protect themselves.”

“People told to isolate due to Covid get €350 on the Enchanced Covid Illness Benefit while those isolating with Monkeypox get €208 at most. People with Monkeypox may be told to isolate themselves for more than a month.”

She added that the current financial support is inadequate and sends a message that monkeypox and the community it is most affecting” are not a priority for the government”.

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