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Monkeypox: UK health agency confirms vaccine supplies are essentially about to run out

By the end of next week most of the UK's stock will have been delivered, according to the UKHSA.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures Wiki Commons

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed that the UK is essentially about to run out of monkeypox vaccine doses with the next batch due to arrive in September.

On Monday (15 August) the organisation announced that around 27,000 have been vaccinated by the NHS, including more than 25,000 gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who have been deemed most at risk during the outbreak.

The announcement follows that of several sexual health clinics, including London’s 56 Dean Street, that they were no longer able to book appointments due to supply issues. 

It also follows reports last week that the UK was about to run out of stock of the smallpox vaccine, which is being used to curb the monkeypox outbreak.

In its statement, the UKHSA said that by the end of next week (26-28 August) it “will have allocated all of the remaining stock (around 5,000 doses as of 11 August) that is currently in the country to the NHS”.

The initial 50,000 doses of the vaccine, the maximum amount immediately available, have helped provide “as much protection as possible,” the statement says.

“There are global issues with supply due to vaccine availability and the necessary time to produce more vaccines,” it also says adding, “This means the further batch of 100,000 doses, which are being made to order, will be received later in September.”

Around 25,325 GBMSM have had a jab with the rest of the 27,000 vaccinated being “part of the healthcare worker programme, and contacts of cases.”

Any residual supplies (until the next delivery of vaccine) will continue to be given out and records will be kept so when there are more doses, those who are eligible can come forward as soon as possible. 

Jim McManus, President of The Association of Directors of Public Health, reassures that the vaccine will be given out as long as supplies last and reminds GBMSM that it is “vitally important” to keep using sexual health services in the meantime.

Responding to the news of the dwindling vaccine supply, Richard Angell, Campaigns Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, says it is “deeply concerning” putting it down to a “lack of decisive leadership”. 

He continues, “Our advice would be to try not to panic ahead of further supplies of the vaccine arriving in the country and to be aware of the symptoms and latest advice for protecting against monkeypox.”

Pointing to mistakes made in the way the vaccine programme has been handled thus far Angell says “Lessons must be learned ahead of the programme recommencing in September with a focus on the vaccine reaching those most in need. That means proper prioritisation of the vaccine and working closely with clinics to maximise supply.”

Dr Claire Dewsnap, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) President, echoes Angell’s worries: “BASHH is concerned about the time it will take to receive more vaccines and will continue to work hard with national agencies to make sure the next round of delivery is as smooth as possible.”

The UKHSA (8 August) detailed that there were a confirmed 2,914 cases and 103 highly probable monkeypox cases in the UK, totalling 3,017. Most cases are in London. 

Monday’s announcement from the UKHSA also indicates the outbreak may be beginning to slow down with the latest data showing 29 cases were reported a day in the first week of August compared to 52 cases a day during the last week in June.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO), with the aid of a group of global experts, renamed the monkeypox disease variants with Roman numerals, rather than geographic areas, in order to avoid stigmatization.

In a statement released on Friday (12 August), WHO said the experts decided to title “the former Congo Basin (Central African) clade as Clade one (I) and the former West African clade as Clade two (II).”

Dr. William Welfare, the Incident Director at UKHSA, said data suggests the outbreak is slowing but new cases are being reported every day, the majority of which are in gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men with transmission occurring in interconnected sexual networks.

Last month, UKHSA added the symptom of “a single lesion or lesions on the genitals, anus and surrounding area, lesions in the mouth, and symptoms of proctitis (anal or rectal pain or bleeding), especially if the individual has had a new sexual partner recently.”

Further 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.

Advice remains that if you think you have monkeypox, stay at home and contact 111 or your local sexual health service for advice.

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.