UKHSA publishes monkeypox vaccination strategy

UKHSA guidance recommends offering Imvanex vaccine to high risk men

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recommended that some gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox should be offered vaccines.

Although not currently defined as a sexually transmitted infection, monkeypox is known to be passed on by close and intimate contact that occurs during sex. Data from the latest outbreak shows higher levels of transmission within gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

The UKHSA's strategy, endorsed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), suggests eligibility criteria similar to those used to assess HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prescriptions – but applied regardless of HIV status. It recommends the smallpox vaccine Imvanex, which is shown to be effective against monkeypox.

The strategy also recommends that pre-exposure vaccination should be prioritised for workers at high risk of exposure, including staff expected to provide care to monkeypox cases in high consequence infectious disease (HCID) units and staff in sexual health clinics designated to assess suspected cases.

NHS England is due to set out details on how eligible people can get vaccinated shortly.

Alex Sparrowhawk, Health Promotion Specialist at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

"This targeted vaccination programme is a positive move forward while the data still shows monkeypox is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men in the UK."

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