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UK procures more vaccine as monkeypox cases grow

UK procures more smallpox vaccine as monkeypox figures grow (PA)
UK procures more smallpox vaccine as monkeypox figures grow (PA)

Health officials have procured 100,000 more doses of vaccine as monkeypox cases continue to rise.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that as of July 18, there were 2,137 confirmed cases in the UK.

Of these 2,050 are in England, with a large proportion of the cases found in London.

Meanwhile, the health body has updated its guidance on self-isolation for people who have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of monkeypox.

It said that close contacts do not need to isolate at home if they do not have symptoms after figures showed that only a relatively small number of close contacts have gone on to develop monkeypox themselves.

Meanwhile officials increased the UK stockpile of vaccine doses which are being offered to people who are most likely to come into contact with the virus.

While anyone can get monkeypox, the majority of cases in the UK continue to be in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Vaccination experts have recommended that some gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox should be offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex.

The UKHSA said that the jab had been shown to be effective against monkeypox.

Dr Merav Kliner, deputy incident director at UKHSA, said: “Based on the growing evidence of how the monkeypox virus is being passed on in this outbreak, close contacts will no longer have to isolate for 21 days unless they develop symptoms.

“While our advice on isolation is changing, monkeypox is still a serious public health challenge, and we urge contacts to take a break from any activities or events involving skin to skin contact, including sex, hugging and kissing to reduce the risk of the virus being passed on unknowingly.

“Stay alert to symptoms and call a sexual health clinic if you become unwell.

“Thank you to all contacts who have isolated already in response to this outbreak. We understand that isolation can be difficult but this was a necessary precaution whilst our knowledge of the outbreak was limited.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay added: “Monkeypox is a rare and usually mild disease that does not spread easily between people, but we are taking action to help further manage the outbreak in the UK by procuring over 100,000 additional doses of vaccine.

“The NHS is already contacting those eligible for the vaccine, and I would urge people to take up the offer as soon as they are contacted.”