UKHSA procures more than 100,000 additional vaccine doses and updates close contact guidance as monkeypox cases rise to 2,137

19th July 2022

UKHSA has published the latest epidemiological overview for the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.

It shows that as of 18 July 2022, there were 2,137 confirmed cases in the UK. Of these 2,050 are in England.

It also includes a breakdown of cases in England by region, which demonstrates that a high proportion of cases are in London.

UKHSA guidance for close contacts of a confirmed monkeypox case has been updated. This means close contacts won’t need to isolate at home if they don’t have symptoms.

The change is being implemented in response to latest data showing that a relatively small number of close contacts have gone on to develop monkeypox and a lack of evidence of transmission outside of close intimate or sexual contact, now that more epidemiological information is available. It means the latest guidance is proportionate to the latest transmission risks identified and is in line with advice from the WHO, other European countries and the CDC.

For category 2 and category 3 close contacts we now recommend people:

• contact NHS 111 or a sexual health clinic if they develop a fever or any of the other symptoms described below
• avoid skin to skin contact with others, such as hugging and kissing
• refrain from sexual or intimate contact
• avoid international travel if possible. Travel insurance may also not be valid for people advised not to travel.
• let health or dental facility staff know they’re a close contact before attending for health or dental care.

For category 3 close contacts we also recommend:

• avoid close contact with children aged under 5 years, pregnant women and those who have an impaired immune system.
• If they work with children aged under 5 years, pregnant women or those who have an impaired immune system, UKHSA or their employer might inform them if they need to take time off. This decision will be based on a personalised clinical assessment.

A smallpox vaccine is still being offered to close contacts with higher risk exposure on a case by case basis. Trained health protection teams carry out detailed clinical assessments of each case to inform their recommendations and categorisation.

Dr Merav Kliner, Deputy Incident Director at UKHSA, said:

“We have now passed over 2,000 confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the UK, and the outbreak continues to grow.

“Based on the growing evidence of how the monkeypox virus is being passed on in this outbreak, close contacts will no longer have to isolate for 21 days unless they develop symptoms.

“While our advice on isolation is changing, monkeypox is still a serious public health challenge, and we urge contacts to take a break from any activities or events involving skin to skin contact, including sex, hugging and kissing to reduce the risk of the virus being passed on unknowingly. Stay alert to symptoms and call a sexual health clinic if you become unwell.

“Thank you to all contacts who have isolated already in response to this outbreak. We understand that isolation can be difficult but this was a necessary precaution whilst our knowledge of the outbreak was limited.”

In response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, UKHSA has procured more than 100,000 additional doses of the smallpox vaccine enabling more people to be vaccinated to prevent infection and limit transmission of the virus.

Additional doses will arrive from the manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, this month, with the remainder expected by September. The UK previously procured nearly 30,000 doses, enabling the NHS to begin roll out of the vaccine programme to individuals who are most likely to acquire the virus.

While anyone can get monkeypox, the majority of cases in the UK continue to be in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), with the infection being passed on mainly through close contact between people in interconnected sexual networks.

An individual’s eligibility for vaccination is detailed in the UKHSA vaccination strategy which was endorsed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The vaccine will be offered to some GBMSM who are more likely to acquire the virus, with eligibility based on a number of factors, similar to the criteria used to assess those eligible for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), even if they are already living with HIV.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

“Monkeypox is a rare and usually mild disease that does not spread easily between people, but we are taking action to help further manage the outbreak in the UK by procuring over 100,000 additional doses of vaccine.

“The NHS is already contacting those eligible for the vaccine, and I would urge people to take up the offer as soon as they are contacted. In the meantime, please contact a sexual health clinic if you notice any unusual rashes or lesions.

“I am hugely grateful to the fantastic sexual health staff and 111 call handlers for working hard to keep the current outbreak under control.”

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA said:

“These additional doses mean that we are in an even stronger position to bring the current monkeypox outbreak under control, ensuring those most likely to acquire the virus are protected from infection. We would like to thank our colleagues in sexual health services for all their hard work in rolling out the vaccination programme.

“Although most cases of monkeypox in the current outbreak are mild, severe illness can occur in some people, so it is important we use the available vaccine to reach groups where transmission is occurring. Anyone can get monkeypox and we continue to urge anyone with a rash with blisters, or any other monkeypox symptoms, to take a break from events, meeting with friends or having sexual contact. Instead, stay at home and contact 111 or your local sexual health service for advice.”

The NHS is already rolling out the vaccine to those who are more likely to acquire the virus, including healthcare workers in specialist roles and in clinics where exposure to monkeypox is highest. The NHS is contacting GBMSM who are eligible for the vaccine.

Nicole Stinson


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