ACT UP Dublin "disappointed" with HSE's plan on monkeypox vaccination

According to members of ACT UP Dublin, specific financial support should be granted to people who are isolating to protect others from contracting monkeypox.

A split screen of ACT UP Dublin, who demanded further action on monkeypox vaccination, marching and a persona being inoculated with a vaccine.
Image: Via Unsplash - National Cancer Institute

After the HSE announced the first phase of their monkeypox vaccination programme yesterday, August 17, advocacy group ACT UP Dublin shared their disappointment with the plan and the delays in bringing it forward.

On the same day that details about the vaccination plan were communicated, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) also reported 116 cases of monkeypox in Ireland. The number of worldwide cases has raised to more than 38,000 and the virus is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, which is why there have been demands for swift action from governments to target this community specifically.

According to the details shared by the HSE, approximately 6,000 people who are at heightened risk of monkeypox infection have been identified in Ireland. However, only 10 percent of those people (600 individuals) will be administered doses of the vaccine in the first phase of the rollout in the next few weeks, according to the plan proposed by the HSE. This will only have an extremely limited impact on the possibility of the virus spreading further.

Moreover, ACT UP Dublin has also pointed out how the criteria to be included in the first phase of the monkeypox vaccination programme do not seem to be grounded in evidence that is accessible to the public. This lack of transparency also involves timelines for the subsequent phases of the vaccination plan.

One of ACT UP Dublin members, Assistant Professor in Nursing John Gilmore, commented on HSE’s vaccination programme saying: “Having waited for over a month for the vaccination plan to be announced, it is very disappointing, and will come as a shock to the Gay, Bisexual and Trans communities that so few vaccines are available. People are anxious about the spread of monkeypox within our communities, and it feels like this public health emergency has not been given the priority it should have been in Ireland.”

“We now know that very few people will be included in the initial phase of this vaccination programme, but it is essential that government provide clear communication on when subsequent phases of the programme will be rolled out, and what will be put in place to support the communities impacted until then.” he continued.

Earlier this year, on July 29, ACT UP Dublin met with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to demand that people who are to isolate because of monkeypox be given specific financial support, just like people isolating due to Covid receive it on the Enhanced Covid Illness Benefit. Individuals who are isolating because of monkeypox now get €208 at most, which is “wholly inadequate” considering that these people are often told to isolate themselves for more than a month.

ACT UP Dublin member Holly Shortall has highlighted that “a public health emergency has been declared and people are being asked to isolate as a public health measure, rather than to protect themselves” and that, while people may “want to protect their friends, partners and the wider community”, they also need to be able to live. “The current financial support is wholly inadequate and sends a message that this global health emergency and the community it is most affecting are not a priority for the government.” she stated.

ACT UP Dublin now has two main demands for the government: affirmative action to secure a greater supply of vaccines for those who are most at risk and specific financial support for people who are told to isolate after contracting monkeypox.

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