Monkeypox vaccine now available in SA amid new warning

A new vaccine for monkeypox has arrived in South Australia and will be available for those in high-risk groups in the first instance, although health authorities warn the virus could spread more widely and have ordered thousands more doses.

Aug 10, 2022, updated Aug 11, 2022
Photo: AP/Richard Vogel

Photo: AP/Richard Vogel

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told reporters this afternoon about 900 doses of a vaccine by Bavarian Nordic had landed in SA and would be provided to at-risk men.

She said they included gay and bisexual men “but particularly people who are living with HIV because their immune system is not as good”.

She said men with multiple sexual partners and those who have sex “on premises” would also be targeted for the vaccine, with health clinics to reach out to them.

People require two doses so this first lot of vaccine is enough for about 450 people.

Monkeypox is known to cause a rash of bumps and blisters that can be painful and can be spread through sexual contact and other forms of close contact.

Other symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.

There has only been one confirmed case of monkeypox so far in SA – a man who returned from overseas – and 66 in Australia.

Spurrier said an outbreak was spreading rapidly around the world with 31,000 cases now reported outside of western and central Africa.

“So it’s obviously something Australia and South Australia is taking very seriously,” she said.

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Spurrier said about 98 per cent of cases globally had occurred in men who have sex with men “particularly in some of those higher-risk groups if there have been multiple sexual partners”.

However, she warned it’s not just an STI and said the mode of transmission means anyone can get and spread it, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

“It is very important that we get ahead of this outbreak,” she said.

“We will be getting more vaccine doses in coming months.”

Spurrier said another 7000 doses of the vaccine would arrive in South Australia in the next couple of months and a further 5500 at the beginning of next year.

SA Health is today sending out a new public health alert to all doctors in the state.

“To be perfectly clear this is not just a sexually transmitted infection,” Spurrier said.

“There is going to be at some point other people exposed whether that’s a health worker or some other family member because it can be transmitted from respiratory droplets and also from the lesions, and also if there are bedding or clothing where the contaminated lesions have touched.

“So there is an expectation at some point that we would have transmission. What we really want to do in Australia is get on top of this as quickly as we can which is why we’re really pleased to have been able to access this new vaccine fairly quickly.”

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