South Australia reveals details of monkeypox vaccine rollout


south australia chief health officer nicola spurrier monkeypox vaccine
Image: SA Health

South Australia has received its initial allocation of 900 monkeypox vaccines and will prioritise the most vulnerable for immunisation.

As the rare virus spreads in dozens of countries overseas, the Australian government has secured a total 450,000 vaccine doses to roll out to those at highest risk.

In Australia since May, there have been 66 confirmed and probable cases. All but two were in returned travellers.

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

This week, the first 22,000 doses of the safe and effective “Jynneos” monkeypox vaccine arrived in Australia.

The doses are being allocated to states and territories. The two-dose vaccine is designed to prevent transmission of the rare virus and also for use as a post-exposure treatment.

South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier (pictured) said the state’s first batch of 900 doses had arrived and will be highly targeted to vulnerable groups.

Professor Spurrier said the state has had only one confirmed case of monkeypox so far, a returned traveller in June. But she said “what we want to do is get on top of this as quickly as we can”.

“The Communicable Disease Control Branch is working in close partnership with sexual health services to deliver this initial allocation of the vaccine using a highly focused rollout,” she said.

“Due to the initial limited supply of the vaccine, those at greatest risk will be contacted directly.”

South Australia to notify those most vulnerable for first vaccine dose

Professor Spurrier said some doses will be reserved for close contacts of cases. Others will be distributed to priority groups through health clinics.

Among the groups eligible are certain men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV or who have had a recent STI, Spurrier explained.

“The way we’re doing this in South Australia is going to those people we know are at higher risk and [tell them] they’re eligible for vaccine,” she said.

Globally, the current monkeypox outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men.

However, authorities worldwide have repeatedly warned against stigma and stressed anyone can contract monkeypox after prolonged contact with the virus.

Professor Spurrier said further guidance on eligibility and access in South Australia will follow the delivery of more doses in the coming months.

South Australia expects 7000 more doses in the next batch, before 5500 more in 2023.

Other states begin rollout of monkeypox vaccine doses

This week, New South Wales and Victoria, the two Australian states with the most cases, also started distributing the first batches of monkeypox vaccine doses to priority groups.

On Thursday, Western Australia confirmed the state’s second monkeypox case, a returned traveller who is in isolation.

“People who develop symptoms of monkeypox should isolate, wear a mask and contact their GP or a sexual health clinic, who can advise about testing for monkeypox,” a WA Health spokesperson said.

“People from across WA identified as eligible for the first supply of vaccine will be contacted by WA Health and offered the vaccine.

“Further doses of vaccine for Western Australia are expected later in the year. At that time the priority groups for vaccination will be expanded.”

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox can spread from person-to-person through skin-to-skin contact with someone with the virus.

This includes intimate contact during sex, or direct contact with contaminated objects, such as bedding, towels or clothes.

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. The symptoms can range from mild to very painful.

Symptoms will usually develop up to two weeks from exposure, but can take up to three weeks, according to NSW Health.

In particular, returned Australian travellers should remain vigilant, especially if coming from areas with high cases.

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

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

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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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