Monkeypox vaccines arrive in Victoria for those most vulnerable

monkeypox vaccine injection stock photo
Stock photo. Image: Steven Cornfield/Unsplash

People in Victoria who are most at risk of contracting monkeypox will start getting their jabs this week after the first doses arrived on Tuesday.

The Australian government has secured a total 450,000 vaccine doses to roll out to those at highest risk as the rare virus spreads overseas. In Australia, there are 58 cases with all but two in returned travellers.

While monkeypox usually causes a mild illness in most people, some are at higher risk of serious disease, including the immunosuppressed.

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas announced on Tuesday Victoria has received an initial 3500 doses of the safe and effective Jynneos smallpox vaccine.

The two-dose vaccine is designed to prevent transmission of the rare virus and also as a post-exposure treatment.

Thomas said initial eligibility for monkeypox vaccination is limited to priority at-risk groups.

“However with more vaccines set to arrive later this year, we will work with the Commonwealth to ensure all Victorians who need a vaccination get one,” she said.

The first doses will go to those who meet strict eligibility criteria, Vic Health says.

Certain gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are included in those criteria.

Thomas said the vaccinations will be delivered in partnership with sexual health clinics and local public health units.

The current outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men. But authorities stress anyone can get monkeypox after prolonged contact with the virus.

Speaking on Tuesday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews warned of the dangers of stigmatising monkeypox.

“Anybody can be infected with this virus and I think it’s important that we don’t single out any one group,” he said.

“We have had times in our history where we have singled out one particular group of people and that doesn’t do them any good.

“It’s wrong and it’s not factually accurate. Anybody can be infected by this virus and we need to be alert to that.”

New South Wales also rolling out monkeypox vaccine to certain groups

It comes as New South Wales also begins distributing monkeypox vaccines this week. Health authorities urge patience as the doses are distributed to at-risk groups first.

In NSW, high-risk groups including men who have sex with men who meet certain criteria are eligible. NSW Health has 5500 doses available in the first stage of the rollout.

A further 30,000 doses will arrive by the end of September, NSW Health said. An estimated 70,000 more doses will be available in early 2023.

Meanwhile in Queensland, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard confirmed on Monday the state will also receive initial vaccine supplies this week.

“The vaccine numbers will be small initially and highly targeted to close contacts and very high risk groups,” he said.

“They’ll be distributed through hospitals, public health units and sexual health clinics.

“Initially the numbers of doses will be small, and they’ll increase in the coming weeks and months.”

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox can spread from person-to-person through skin-to-skin contact, contact with infected surfaces or items and respiratory droplets, VicHealth said.

Transmission requires prolonged and often intimate contact with an infected individual.

Monkeypox often starts with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches and muscle aches and pains.

The virus also causes rashes, lesions or sores on the body, including on the genitals, face and mouth.

People who contract monkeypox must isolate until the sores fully clear, which can be up to 21 days.

Anyone who develops symptoms should isolate and seek medical care, calling ahead and wearing a mask.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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