Monkeypox vaccine set to be rolled out

·2-min read

More than 400,000 monkeypox jabs have been ordered by the federal government in a bid to contain the outbreak.

Health Minister Mark Butler announced on Thursday the government had signed an agreement with Bavarian Nordic to secure 450,000 doses, with 22,000 due to arrive in Australia as soon as this week.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the first shots could be given as early as next week.

The remainder of the doses will arrive later this year and into 2023.

The vaccine is a new generation of immunisation, compared to the smallpox jab which is also used to protect against monkeypox.

Mr Butler said the vaccine can be used to prevent the transmission of the monkeypox virus, but also as a post-exposure treatment.

"This vaccine is far more effective and certainly more user friendly for patients which may have compromised immunity," he said.

He said Australia was one of only a few countries to secure supplies of the vaccine.

Professor Kelly said monkeypox can adversely affect immunocompromised people, children and pregnant women.

"If it gets into those populations, it can be quite severe," he said.

"That's why we're taking the steps we're taking and the vaccines will really help with that."

When asked if the number of cases was expected to increase in Australia, Prof Kelly said health authorities have been preparing for the virus since May.

"All the work done since May ... and the added benefit of the vaccine will continue to help us to control the epidemic here in Australia and I'm very confident that will happen."

Mr Butler said the vaccine would mostly be available through state and territory sexual health clinics.

The government will also roll out training for clinicians and a community engagement program.

Two health bodies are forming a task force to respond to monkeypox - the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, and the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine.

They commended the government for securing the vaccines.

"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," the federation's acting chief Heath Paynter said.

It is understood all but two of the 58 reported cases in Australia have been among travellers returning from overseas.

Gay and bisexual men are most at risk, although it is not a sexually transmitted infection.

"We expect the outbreak will begin to slow 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," the society's president and sexual health specialist Dr Nick Medland said.

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