Monkeypox vaccine rollout paused due to stock shortages

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Wednesday 7th September 2022

The monkeypox vaccine rollout has been paused in some parts of the country, including Brighton, due to stock shortages. The BBC revealed that shortages of monkeypox vaccine had caused the programme to stall over the weekend of the 13th-14th August in Brighton and Hove. There are fears that more areas could be affected in the coming days and weeks if supplies are not bolstered. Brighton MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, confirmed that only those who had an appointment booked already would be able to access the vaccine until more stocks arrive. 

Vaccines have been recommended for high-risk groups, as the number of cases of monkeypox continues to rise. Monkeypox is a virus, which is usually identified in Central and West Africa. A recent outbreak has affected more than 75 countries, with thousands of cases identified in Europe. The infection causes blisters to develop on the skin, as well as a fever, fatigue, headaches, swollen glands, muscular aches and pains and chills. 

In most cases, symptoms of monkeypox are mild, but the virus is contagious. Vaccines will help to stem the spread of infection among those most vulnerable. So far, health experts have advised high-risk individuals, including some health workers and gay and bisexual people, to have the vaccine to enhance protection. Monkeypox is spread through sexual and close physical contact, droplets spread through coughing and sneezing and touching bedding and other materials, such as towels, that have been used by somebody with monkeypox. 

The latest figures show that more than 2,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified in the UK. Case numbers were highest in London. Outside of London, Brighton had the highest number of confirmed cases at 69. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that 100,000 vaccines would be arriving in September. A spokesperson was unable to comment on whether the vaccine rollout would be paused in other parts of the country. 

Mr Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown, said that he had been informed that there are currently only 5,000 vaccines available in the UK. He added that many constituents had come forward because they are worried about the virus, but now there is a real risk that they won’t be able to access vaccines. He accused the government of “bad organisation.”

NHS England statistics suggest that over 25,000 people have been vaccinated in England so far. Reports indicate that the remaining supplies will be allocated to sexual health clinics across the country and administered to high-risk individuals. In Brighton, only those who have an appointment will be able to get the jab and this could be the case in other areas, with supplies running low in the next two weeks. In Scotland, vaccination has stalled due to shortages. 

The vaccine rollout has focused primarily on London, where more than 75% of cases have been confirmed. However, case numbers have risen outside of the capital and many of those who are deemed high-risk are eager to get the vaccine.

The UK procured thousands of doses of the smallpox vaccine to protect against monkeypox. Smallpox is part of the same family of viruses and therefore, the vaccine helps to reduce risks. Monkeypox causes much less severe symptoms than smallpox and experts maintain that despite rises in case numbers, the risks of contracting the infection are still low. 

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Clinical Programmes at the UKHSA, confirmed that the UK had secured a supply of more than 150,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine, 50,000 of which have already arrived in the country. The remaining 100,000 vaccines will arrive in September ready for distribution via sexual health centres and local clinics. Dr Ramsay stated that the doses that had already been administered to individuals “at the highest risk of exposure should have a significant impact on the transmission of the virus.”

Countries around the world are experiencing similar problems to the UK, as the demand for the smallpox vaccine has soared. Monkeypox has been identified in more than 80 countries and nations are scrabbling to access jabs, which need to be manufactured, as only small supplies are held due to the risk of bioterrorism.