The first case of monkeypox was identified in Australia in May 2022, soon after the outbreak was reported in the United Kingdom and Europe. Since then 42 confirmed and probable cases have been recorded in the country as of July 21, 2022.
Community groups and advocates have urged the Australian government to approve and secure supplies of the monkeypox vaccine and offer it to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men and other at risk individuals.
Star Observer has sought a response from health minister Butler and will update the story when we receive it.
Approving Vaccines For Monkeypox
I’ve urged the federal government to fast track approval, procurement and distribution of monkeypox vaccine to the most at risk groups.
— Alex Greenwich MP (@AlexGreenwich) July 20, 2022
The UK, US and some other countries have already recommended monkeypox vaccines for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men at higher risk of exposure. The eligibility for monkeypox vaccine is the same as anyone who is eligible for PrEP.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had in June 2022 recommended the use of ACAM2000 vaccine “for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or pre-exposure prophylaxis in individuals with high risk of exposure to and/or severe outcomes from monkeypox virus”.
The newer vaccine Jynneos had received approval in the US in 2019 for small pox and monkeypox, but is yet to be approved by ATAGI.
“New vaccines for monkeypox (Jynneos) are in use overseas but have not been approved in Australia. Vaccines are the best way to protect gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men from infection with monkeypox and to stop an escalation in community transmission in Australia,” said Greenwich.
Australian Government Should Act Fast
The WHO has reported around 14,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox globally, with around five deaths as of July 21, 2022. With many Australians returning from summer holidays in Europe and the US, the rising number of cases are a cause of concern.
“As cases of monkeypox continue to escalate overseas, we’re asking the Australian Government to act expeditiously to offer the vaccine to men who has sex with men and other at-risk individuals,” Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth told Star Observer.
“While we have been working to make sure our communities have the health information they need – the sooner we have access to the vaccine, the sooner our communities can take action to prevent an outbreak of MPXV here in Australia,” added Ruth.
Jynneos Vaccine Expected In Coming Months In Australia
According to Professor Allen Cheng, Director of Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology at Alfred Health, currently there are two vaccines available for monkeypox – MVA-BN (Jynneos in the US) and ACAM2000.
“ACAM2000 is a slightly updated version of the old smallpox vaccine everyone used to get before the 1970s,” Professor Cheng, who is also the Chair of the Advisory Committee for Vaccines, told Star Observer.
“It’s a single dose, given slightly unusually (pinpricks to the skin, rather than the usual injection). It is also a ‘live’ vaccine – so it cannot be used in people who have compromised immune systems (including some people with HIV). There is good evidence that it is protective against monkeypox (as well as smallpox) for a very long period.”
“Jynneos is a newer vaccine that was designed to protect from smallpox, but also appears to be effective against monkeypox,” said Professor Cheng.
“There is much less experience with this vaccine, but it appears to be safe. It is two doses (28 days apart), and given in the usual way (injection into the arm). It isn’t yet available in Australia, but some doses are expected over the coming months.”
“Both vaccines can be used “pre-exposure” (in the traditional way, prior to being exposed) or “post-exposure” (after someone has had contact with a person with monkeypox). Many people may be familiar with the concerns of PEP (like a morning after pill) and PrEP (before an exposure) – the only difference is that this is a vaccine rather than a tablet.”
The current monkeypox outbreak outside Africa was first reported in May 2022. Many of the cases have been among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, which health authorities have attributed to the community getting tested for sexually transmitted infections at any sign of symptoms.
In Australia, monkeypox cases have been recorded in most jurisdictions. Of the 42 confirmed and probable cases, 22 were in New South Wales, 15 in Victoria, 2 in the Australian Capital Territory, and one each in Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory.
Most of the cases in NSW were picked up after the persons presented themselves to sexual health clinics, according to NSW Health.
NSW Health said that people need to be vigilant for monkeypox symptoms, “which can include fever, headache, body aches and a rash or lesions on the genital area”. In NSW, most people with monkeypox had mild symptoms like pimples in the genital area or buttock.
“The virus is mainly spread through skin to skin contact with the lesions or rarely through close contact with large respiratory droplets from a person early on in their infection,” NSW Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty had said in statement earlier this month.
“It is important that people with symptoms avoid close contact with others, including sexual activity, as condoms are not effective at preventing the transmission of monkeypox.”