Irish government establishes new Strategy Advisory Group on monkeypox

The new Strategic Advisory Group on monkeypox was set up with the goal of strengthening Ireland’s response to the monkeypox outbreak.

This article is about a new Strategy Advisory Group on monkeypox established in Ireland. In the photo, a person being administered a vaccine.
Image: Via Pexels - Gustavo Fring

Yesterday, August 18, the Irish government announced that a new group of experts has been set up to advise on the response to the current outbreak of monkeypox. The Strategic Advisory Group is composed of experts on public health, infectious diseases and immunology, who will work on a strategy to contain the spread of the virus.

After the HSE shared information on Phase One of their monkeypox vaccination programme on Wednesday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan announced that the new Strategic Advisory Group on monkeypox has been set up with the goal of strengthening Ireland’s response to the monkeypox outbreak.

According to the latest information shared by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), there are currently 113 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Ireland and all cases are male with a median age of 36 years. A majority of these cases have been detected among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Minister Donnelly commented: “Since the first monkeypox infection alert, Ireland has moved quickly to respond to the monkeypox disease outbreak. The Strategic Advisory Group will strengthen our response.”

Including members from multiple disciplines, the group will be chaired by Interim Chief Medical Officer, Professor Breda Smyth, who said: “The multi-disciplined membership of the Strategic Advisory Group will play a key role in providing oversight and advice on the surveillance and management of monkeypox at a national level as well as the ongoing strategy to contain the outbreak, supporting our efforts to contain the spread of the disease.”

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast and Morning Ireland, HSE’s National Clinical Lead for Sexual Health Services, Professor Fiona Lyons discussed the plan for monkeypox vaccination for the country. Even though a total of 6,000 people have been identified as being at high risk of monkeypox infection, with the currently limited vaccine supplies, only 10 percent will be administered a dose.

Professor Lyons said she was “very optimistic” that the State would be able to source sufficient quantities of vaccine before the end of the year. “Ultimately we want to be able to offer the vaccine to all at risk,” she said.

On the same day the group of experts on monkeypox was established, in the US the White House announced a new plan to focus on those parts of the population who are most at risk of contracting the virus, especially men who have sex with men. This plan includes bumping up the supply of the vaccine directed to local jurisdictions where big LGBTQ+ events are taking place.

In essence, Pride events are going to include something like vaccine pop-ups where people will be able to be administered doses of the monkeypox vaccine. The implementation of this new programme will begin this weekend at Charlotte Pride.

In the meantime, to help prevent the spread of misinformation about the disease, Twitter has added a “Know the Facts” feature that will guide users to trustworthy information on monkeypox. It will come up every time the word “monkeypox” appears as a search term and it will point users toward information provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The feature was added on Twitter after the LGBTQ+ media watchdog GLAAD reached out. GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said stated, “Though anyone can contract [monkeypox], it is disproportionately impacting the LGBTQ community, especially men who have sex with men, and it is urgent and critical to get the facts around vaccines, treatment, and prevention widely and equitably distributed.”

If you wish to know more about the Strategic Advisory Group on monkeypox, check out the government’s page here.

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