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Gay and bisexual men are at higher risk of being offered a monkeypox vaccine

Monkeypox virus seen under a microscope

Those at higher risk of exposure are being offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex, which has been shown to be effective against monkeypox (Image: Gov.uk)

Vaccination should be offered to gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox, the UK Health Agency has recommended.

Those at higher risk of exposure are offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex, which has been shown to be effective against monkeypox.

The strategy is supported by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which has been consulted on the eligibility criteria for the vaccine.

Eligibility would depend on a number of factors, but would be similar to the criteria used to assess those eligible for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—but used regardless of HIV status.

For example, someone who has multiple partners, participates in group sex, or attends “sex on premises” venues could be eligible.

NHS England will shortly finalize details on how eligible people can be vaccinated. People are being advised not to sign up for the vaccine until contacted.

dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunization at UKHSA, said: “Our extensive contact tracing work has helped stem the spread of the monkeypox virus, but we continue to see a notable proportion of cases among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Monkeypox lesions are shown on a patient's hand

Monkeypox lesions are shown on a patient’s hand (Image: Getty)

“By expanding the vaccine offer to those at higher risk, we hope to break chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak.

“Although most cases are mild, some people can develop serious illnesses, so it’s important that we target the available vaccine to populations where the spread is ongoing. The NHS will soon be announcing details on how this will be delivered – so don’t sign up for the vaccine just yet.

Alex Sparrowhawk, Health Promotion Expert at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This targeted vaccination program is a positive step forward, although data still shows that monkeypox disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men in the UK.”

Robbie de Santos, director of communications and at Stonewall, said: “While we know anyone can contract monkeypox, we welcome the vaccine being offered to gay and bisexual men, who are eligible and currently at higher risk of contracting it to be infected with the virus.

“It is important that gay and bisexual men get the vaccine when it is offered to protect themselves and others. Let’s help get the outbreak under control so we can all have a safe and happy Pride season.

During and after the vaccine’s introduction, people were warned to continue to be alert for new spots, ulcers or blisters on any part of their body, especially if they had close contact with a new partner.

If you think you have these symptoms avoid close contact with others and call NHS 111 or your local sexual health center but please call ahead before attending.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/21/gay-and-bisexual-men-at-higher-risk-to-be-offered-monkeypox-vaccine-16867745/ Gay and bisexual men are at higher risk of being offered a monkeypox vaccine

Justin Scacco

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