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UK Offers Some Gay, Bisexual Men the Monkeypox Vaccine

Men who have ‘a recent history of multiple partners, participating in group sex,’ or ‘attending sex on premises venue’ are eligible for the vaccine

Gay and bisexual men in the United Kingdom may be able to get the monkeypox vaccine as the government attempts to stop the spread of the disease.

The nation’s Health Security Agency said the vaccine will be available to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who are at particularly high risk of being exposed to the virus because of their lifestyle or behaviors. This includes men with “a recent history of multiple partners, participating in group sex, attending sex on premises venues or a proxy marker such as recent bacterial STI (in the past year),” per a statement from the agency.

While there is no vaccine specifically licensed for monkeypox in Europe, the Smallpox Modified Vaccinia Ankara – Bavarian Nordic can provide cross-protection against the illness. Monkeypox is genetically related to the smallpox virus. The smallpox vaccine is reported to be 85% effective against monkeypox.

The agency is not recommending all GBMSM men get the vaccine due to its limited supply.

“By expanding the vaccine offer to those at higher risk, we hope to break chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at the Health Security Agency, per AP News.

“There is very limited evidence on the effectiveness of post-exposure vaccination using MVA-BN, and therefore vaccine should be prioritised for those most likely to benefit,” the UKHSA notes. “This would be based on timeliness of vaccination following exposure and for individuals at higher risk of severe disease following infection.”

Monkeypox is endemic in certain countries in Africa. The first case of the disease documented in the UK was a travel-associate case originating in Nigeria.

The agency noted cases of Monkeypox have been largely located in the London area among GBMSM communities.

There are just over 790 cases of the disease in the UK and more than 110 in the United States. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the majority of domestic cases were reported in California (24), New York (21), Illinois (15), and Florida (10).

Monkeypox is rare and does not spread easily between people without close contact,” says the CDC. “The threat of monkeypox to the general U.S. population remains LOW.”

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash on the mouth, face, hands, feet, genitals, or other parts of the body. The rash generally looks like pimples or blisters.

People who have been exposed to the illness can be contagious for up to four weeks

Prior to the global outbreak of the virus, the monkeypox vaccine was only offered to health care workers who were at risk of exposure to the virus while conducting their professional tasks.

In total, there are just over 2,500 cases across 35 countries where monkeypox is not currently considered endemic.

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