Aust secures monkeypox vaccines, NSW rollout begins
The Australian Government has secured 450,000 doses of the new third-generation monkeypox virus (MPX) vaccine by Bavarian Nordic, making Australia one of a limited number of countries to secure supplies of this vaccine in 2022. The two-dose vaccine is designed to prevent the transmission of the monkeypox virus and can also be used as a post-exposure treatment.
The first delivery of around 22,000 doses is due to arrive in the coming days; the remainder will arrive later this year and in 2023. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has also recommended key groups to be vaccinated, including high-risk contacts of known cases; men who have sex with men (particularly those living with HIV, with multiple sexual partners or who attend sex-on-premises venues); and sex workers.
States and territories will immediately receive the MPX vaccine from the first delivery and will manage the vaccine rollout within their jurisdictions. This includes prioritising access to the initial doses to manage the immediate outbreak, based on who is at greatest risk of exposure or severe illness and their local context.
NSW Health has already announced that its rollout will begin on Monday, 8 August, having initially secured 5500 doses of vaccine for high-risk groups such as people with suppressed immune systems, sex workers and homeless men who have sex with men. NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said doctors will identify people who should be vaccinated against monkeypox and more information will be released in coming days about how to register interest.
The Australian Government has meanwhile engaged the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) to form a National MPXV Taskforce, which will provide leadership and policy advice on community engagement, clinical management, education and prevention.
The government said it will provide funding to peak organisations to undertake targeted communication activities that support the monkeypox response in Australia. A highly targeted campaign will also be created to encourage at-risk populations to vaccinate.
“The swift procurement of these vaccines is a very positive development,” said Heath Paynter, Acting CEO of AFAO. “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.
“It is deeply reassuring to see the Commonwealth also commit to a health promotion campaign that will reach people at risk of transmission across Australia and inform them of the benefits of being vaccinated. Combined with an expert taskforce representing community and clinical experts, this is a substantial step forward in responding to monkeypox.”
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