Monkeypox: UKHSA orders 20,000 additional doses of smallpox vaccine as cases rise in UK

Monkeypox: Dr Chris outlines the main symptoms

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Known as Imvanex, and supplied by Bavarian Nordic, the vaccine is being offered to close contacts of people diagnosed with Monkeypox in order to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness. Doctor Susan Hopkins, the chief medical advisor of UKHSA, said: “We are continuing to promptly identify further Monkeypox cases in England.” Tracking is ongoing via extensive surveillance and contact tracing networks, in addition to the NHS service, and people coming forward if they have symptoms.

“If anyone suspects they might have rashes or lesions on any part of their body, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others,” said Doctor Hopkins.

She added: “Contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service as soon as possible, though please phone ahead before attending in person.”

The UKHSA health protection teams are contacting people considered to be at high-risk of infection.

If you have been in close contact to a confirmed Monkeypox case, you are likely to be contacted.

The health protection teams are telling high-risk contacts to “isolate at home for 21 days”.

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While the UKHSA reiterated that the “risk to the UK population remains low”, people still need to be “alert to any new rashes or lesions” on the body.

Even though the advice applies to everybody, the majority of cases have been identified among gay and bisexual men, who engage in sexual intercourse with other men.

Monkeypox – what is it?

“Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus, a DNA virus,” the UKHSA notes.

Related to the smallpox virus, which got eradicated in 1980, the smallpox vaccine is believed to provide “a degree of cross-protection”.

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“Previous data from Africa suggests that previous vaccines against smallpox may be up to 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox infection,” the UKHSA adds.

The monkeypox vaccine

Imvanex is a third generation smallpox vaccine, which was licensed by the European Medicines Agency in 2013.

The European Medicines Agency explained Imvanex “contains a live modified form of the vaccinia virus called vaccinia Ankara”.

The side effects of Imvanex

As with any vaccine, there are side effects associated with the Imvanex vaccine.

Affecting more than one in 10 people, side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness

Injection-site reactions.At the injection site, which will be the upper arm, there might be pain, redness, swelling, hardening or itching of the skin.

Imvanex must not be used in patients who are allergic to chicken protein, benzonase, and gentamicin.

How effective is Imvanex at preventing severe illness from Monkeypox?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers the Imvanex vaccine as “effective at triggering the production of antibodies against smallpox”.

As monkeypox and smallpox are related, the idea is that the vaccine should offer some protection against the virus now circulating in the UK.

Rest assured, the EMA said the vaccinia virus in Imvanex cannot replicate in human cells.

Moreover, the third generation vaccine produces less side effects than the previous two generations.

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