The HSE has announced that it will commence phase one of the monkeypox vaccination programme “in the coming days”. The organisation has also communicated further details of the rollout plan, including information on priority groups.
Experts have identified approximately 6000 people in the country who may be at heightened risk of monkeypox infection. The currently limited vaccine supplies allow for 10 percent (600) of these people to be administered doses in the first phase of the rollout, and these people are expected to receive their jabs in “the next few weeks”. The first set of patients will be offered two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart as per the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) guidelines.
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and Transgender people who have been diagnosed with early infectious syphilis (EIS) between December 2021 and July 2022 are currently being prioritised. Sexual health services will make direct contact with those being offered vaccines within phase one of the rollout scheme, and the first patients should expect to be notified in the coming days.
“This group is being prioritised because the nature of the spread of syphilis is similar to that of monkeypox, and syphilis also disproportionately affects gbMSM when compared to other STIs,” the HSE states.
“In addition, the majority of these patients are diagnosed through sexual health clinics which means the people can be more quickly identified and invited for vaccination,” it adds.
Phase two of the rollout plan is not expected to commence until later this year or in early 2023 due to the low supply of vaccines throughout the EU. To date, the HSE has been administering jabs to close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases, as well as to some healthcare workers.
As the rollout commences, the organisation once again issues a reminder that the virus “can affect anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender.” It also explains that “Vaccination with monkeypox vaccine does not guarantee that a person cannot become infected and those who are vaccinated should continue to be alert to the signs of monkeypox infection.”
HIV Ireland has welcomed the announcement from the HSE, but also calls upon the Irish government to “take urgent action to procure additional vaccine stock”.
“A key component to controlling and hopefully eradicating this virus is a coordinated vaccine rollout programme for those most at risk of infection,” said HIV Ireland’s Executive Director Stephen O’Hare.
“As the extent of the crisis unfolds, it will be imperative that additional vaccines are procured as soon as possible, and that more resources are made available within sexual health services to identify and contact those most at risk to offer them a vaccine at the earliest opportunity.”
MPOWER Programme Manager Adam Shanley added: “The longer our community is made to wait for vaccination, cases will continue to rise and anxiety among gbMSM will increase.”
??HSE: priority given to this group because ‘nature of spread of syphilis is similar to MPX and syphilis also disproportionately affects gbMSM compared to other STIs’.
??Sexual health services will contact people directly for appointments.
?? Vaccine is 2 doses, 28 days apart.
— Adam Shanley (@Adlers1) August 17, 2022
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