Cases of monkeypox could skyrocket by the end of the year – and reach children, for whom the virus can be deadly – if vaccination efforts against it are not improved, experts have warned.
With 50,000 doses of vaccines on order, public health experts say it will take four times that number to stop the spread.
In the UK there have already been more than 1,850 cases of the disease, which causes painful blisters all over the body, and the number is thought to be doubling every 15 days. These have mainly been observed in homosexual men.
Dr Deborah Birx, the former head of the US Covid task force, told the Mail on Sunday that all gay men in London under the age of 50 should be vaccinated as well as women who frequent gay bars. “If you’re in a gay bar and dancing, there’s a risk of infection,” she said.
Cases of monkeypox could skyrocket by the end of the year – and reach children, for whom the virus can be deadly – if vaccination efforts against it do not improve, experts have warned
The virus is transmitted through close physical contact, such as sex, but also through kisses and hugs.
Vaccines can provide effective protection, but doctors have criticized the slow rollout of shots to Britons most at risk and say the UK does not have enough doses to stop the virus spreading through the population in the UK. wider.
There are particular concerns that monkeypox could reach children, who are more likely to suffer serious illness as a result.
On Thursday, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed that a London school had sent back reception classes until the end of term after a child came into contact with a case of monkeypox.
According to a letter sent to parents, authorities advised parents to avoid hugging their children, or any other very close contact, for two weeks. Children will now be offered the vaccine.
Dr Deborah Birx (pictured), the former head of the US Covid task force, told the Mail on Sunday that all gay men in London under the age of 50 should be vaccinated as well as women who frequent gay bars “If you’re in a gay bar and dancing, there’s a risk of infection,” she said.
There are two vaccines that can protect against the virus. One, created by a small Danish company, specifically protects against monkeypox. But the decades-old smallpox vaccine also works because the two viruses are so similar.
The majority of people over 50 are thought to already have good immunity to monkeypox as they would have received a mandatory smallpox vaccine in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Mail on Sunday understands the UK has 30,000 vaccines – a combination of the two types – and sexual health clinics last week began inviting some gay men to receive the vaccine.
However, experts say at least 200,000 injection doses are needed to prevent monkeypox from spreading and reaching children, and spreading among them and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women.
This figure is based on the number of men eligible for HIV preventive medication – those who have two or more male partners on average every six months, and as such are most at risk of catching monkeypox .
If health officials are able to vaccinate this group, experts believe the disease could be effectively controlled.
Examples of monkeypox rashes, which can appear anywhere on the body. In the UK there have already been more than 1,850 cases of the disease, which causes painful blisters, and the number is thought to be doubling every 15 days. These have been mostly seen in gay men
Official estimates suggest there are 100,000 men eligible for the drugs in the UK, including 70,000 in London, where the majority of monkeypox cases have already been seen.
As with Covid, two shots are needed for the vaccine to produce its full effect, which means that at present the UK cannot vaccinate all eligible Britons.
“Health officials have told us that the current strategy is to get 50,000 doses of the vaccine, but because we have to distribute two, that means only 25,000 people will get them and that’s not enough,” says the Dr Claire Dewsnap, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
“Currently, monkeypox only affects this subgroup of Britons, but if cases continue to rise, it will not stay that way. When it does eventually break out into the wider population, we will need far more vaccines than we can reasonably get our hands on.
Experts also believe many cases are going undiagnosed, following a study last week from Belgium’s Institute of Tropical Medicine which showed transmission of the virus can occur without symptoms.
More than ten per cent of Britons infected have been hospitalized, although this has been mainly for pain management as the blisters can be debilitating, making activities such as eating and going to the toilet excruciating. In people with weakened immune systems, such as children, the disease can be fatal.
In June, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was concerned that sustained transmission of monkeypox could lead to establishment of the virus in the community and could infect “high-risk groups.” risk, especially children, immunocompromised people and pregnant women”.
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