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Health secretary Thérèse Coffey rejected monkeypox vaccine advice, say reports

Coffey is reported to have rejected expert guidance because of value-for-money concerns.

By Emily Maskell

Thérèse Coffey
Thérèse Coffey (Image: Wiki Commons)

The Health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has reportedly rejected her expert advice to obtain more monkeypox vaccine doses.

Experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had recommended the purchasing of extra vaccines to ensure long-term protection can be secured but the Financial Times has reported that Coffey did not purchase the recommended extra 70,000 doses.

It is claimed Coffey’s decision was due to concerns the option did not offer value-for-money and UKHSA officials have been left “in shock” at the news. 

The UK has been facing vaccine shortages for numerous months now, with smaller but equally effective doses being used to stretch reserves, to the point the UK effectively ran out of monkeypox vaccines in August and the long-term plan for tackling the infection remains unclear. 

Coffey’s decision is a deeply concerning development considering the ongoing health concern with the UKHSA’s emphasis on the vaccination programme being absolutely necessary to control the outbreak.

Last month, The Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust, and PrEPster called on Coffey to take action with “decisive leadership” to support sexual health clinics that are in crisis as a result of the monkeypox outbreak.

“The monkeypox outbreak had not gone away and any new case should be a cause for concern,” Deborah Gold, the Chief Executive at National AIDS Trust, said at the time. 

Gold continued: “Services need additional resources now so they can get a grip of monkeypox and to ensure HIV services are not further impacted.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust shared on Twitter that if true, Coffey’s decision is “concerning and shortsighted,” adding: “We need to secure vaccines while the opportunity is there. We will urgently raise this with the health secretary.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting echoes the Trust’s sentiment and called the government’s response to monkeypox “flatfooted and unacceptable”. 

“Incompetence is bad enough,” Streeting wrote. “A deliberate choice that jeopardises public health against official advice would be unconscionable.”

As of Monday (3 October), a UKSHA report states there were 3,654 total confirmed and highly probable monkeypox cases detected, 69 percent of these cases were London residents.

In the same report, it is detailed that over 45,000 gay and bisexual men had been vaccinated out of the estimated 110,000 who are identified to be eligible and at the highest risk of exposure.

Coffey’s refusal to supply the UK with additional and necessary doses has stirred further frustration towards the health secretary, who voted against gay marriage in 2013 and said she stood by that decision in 2020.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, aches and pains, tiredness, chills, swollen glands, and a rash that appears after a few days starting on the face and hands, and spreads to the rest of the body, including the genitals – symptoms can take up to 3 weeks to develop.

The advice remains that if you think you have symptoms of monkeypox, stay at home and contact 111 or your local sexual health service for advice. contact your healthcare provider for advice, testing, and medical care. Until you receive your test result, isolate yourself from others if possible.


A government spokesperson told Attitude that the “UK has enough doses of the monkeypox vaccine to offer everybody at highest risk two doses.

“We acted immediately to tackle the spread of Monkeypox, moving early to secure 150,000 vaccines amid global shortages and rapidly deploying jabs to those most at risk.

“While cases are falling in the UK, we are not complacent and we continue to encourage people to remain vigilant and take up the offer of a vaccine if offered. We continue to monitor the situation and decisions about future supply will be made and communicated in the usual way.”