Monkeypox vaccines will be available in Australia from next week.The Australian government said it had secured nearly half a million doses of 3rd generation Monkeypox vaccines, with the first batch of around 22,000 doses arriving later this week and next week.

The first shots could go into the arms of those most vulnerable from next week onwards, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly confirmed on Thursday. 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had last week recommended monkeypox vaccines for key risk groups, including gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men who are at high risk of exposure.

Australia Secures 450,000 Monkeypox Vaccine Doses

Health Minister Mark Butler said that Australia had secured around 450,000 doses of the vaccine from Bavarian Nordic, the makers of IMVANEX (marketed in the US as JYNNEOS) vaccines. 

The first batch of 22,000 vaccines will arrive this week and next, around 100,000 later this year and the remaining 350,000 in 2023. 

ATAGI had said that JYNNEOS was the “preferred vaccine for both pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), due to its more favourable safety profile and comparative ease of administration.”

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JYNNEOS is administered as a two-dose vaccine, with a minimum interval of 28 days between the two doses. “JYNNEOS is associated with fewer potential adverse events and is safe to use in people with immunocompromised or atopic dermatitis. JYNNEOS may also be used in children or during pregnancy, after risk-benefit assessment,” ATAGI said in its updated monkeypox vaccine guidelines. 

“Jynneos is a newer vaccine that was designed to protect from smallpox, but also appears to be effective against monkeypox,” Professor Allen Cheng, Director of Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology at Alfred Health, had told Star Observer last month. “There is much less experience with this vaccine, but it appears to be safe.

Since the current outbreak that started in May 2022, 25,864 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported as of August 3, 2022, in around 80 countries outside of West and Central Africa, where the disease is endemic.

Australia has reported around 58 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox, with all cases among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. All but two cases have been among persons who have returned from overseas. 

Gay, Bisexual Men Most At Risk In Current Outbreak

Though monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, most cases in the current outbreak have been among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, which has been attributed to the health seeking behaviour of the community.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has described the government securing the vaccines as a “breakthrough moment” for people at risk. 

“While local transmission of Monkeypox has so far been limited, we can’t rely on that to continue. Cities such as London, Montreal, Lisbon and Madrid are all dealing with significant community transmission,” Heath Paynter, acting CEO of AFAO, said in a statement. 

Australia Recommends Monkeypox Vaccines For Some Gay, Bisexual Men

“The availability of MPX vaccine for people who need it is a critical forward defence against transmission,”said Paynter. “Gay and bisexual men are already taking Monkeypox very seriously, monitoring for symptoms and regularly seeking medical advice. This is a very welcome additional tool.”

According to Dr Nick Medland, sexual health specialist, ASHM president and researcher at the Kirby Institute, the outbreak is expected to slow down after “75,000 members of our community have had one dose of the vaccine and may not be eliminated until 250,000 doses have been administered to those who need them most.”

“We’re working closely with affected communities to ensure the health system is ready to deliver a safe and equitable vaccine rollout. We know from COVID-19 and from HIV that our responses to infectious diseases are only effective when clinicians work hand-in-hand with the people most affected,” said Dr Medland.

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