UK supplies of monkeypox vaccine in danger of running out this month

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The UK will run out of monkeypox vaccines in about two to three weeks, with no new shipments expected until late September, despite surging demand for vaccination.

The country, one of the epicentres of monkeypox, has little more than 8,300 doses of vaccine left, according to an internal NHS letter seen by the Financial Times. Shipments of a new order of 100,000 doses will not resume until September, according to the document.

Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said that at current levels of demand the country was “likely” to run out of vaccine in about 10 to 20 days, after which there would be a period of about three to four weeks in which no new doses would arrive.

“It was thought the number needing vaccination would be lower than we are seeing in clinic and demand is high,” she said.

Demand across the UK “greatly outstrips” currently available stocks, according to the document, with 8,360 doses available for allocation nationally, with about 5,000 earmarked for the capital, on top of limited supplies currently held by NHS trusts.

The document called for the health service to “urgently” devise a plan to cover the period to the end of September, “bearing in mind these acute supply constraints and the urgency of reaching those at highest risk”.

“This is clearly all very difficult and very sensitive, and not a position that any of us would like to be in,” it added.

Dewsnap said shipments to London had been made a priority because most cases were clustered there at the beginning of the outbreak. “Stopping the outbreak there was the most important thing to do. That said, demand outside of London is very high because nobody wants to get monkeypox,” she added.

Bavarian Nordic, the manufacturer of the vaccine, which is known as Imvanex and was initially approved for use against smallpox, did not respond to a request for comment.

NHS England said it had “quickly” increased capacity to offer the vaccine to those eligible under guidelines released by the UK Health Security Agency. It added that while supply was “currently severely limited”, it was expecting to receive “more doses in the coming weeks”.

“To stop the spread and protect communities, the NHS is prioritising those at greatest risk as quickly as possible, and people should wait to be contacted to book in for their vaccine,” it said in a statement.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of clinical programmes at the UKHSA, said the country had “moved early” to procure over 150,000 doses of the vaccine “to meet expected demand”. “The thousands of vaccines administered by the NHS to date among those at highest risk of exposure should have a significant impact on the transmission of the virus,” she added.

The UK is an epicentre of the worldwide monkeypox outbreak that began in May and has recorded at least 2,859 cases.

The vast majority in the UK have been seen in men who have sex with men, and nearly three out of four are located in London. There are signs the outbreak may have begun to level off nationally, though case numbers continue to rise globally and reached 30,000 on Monday. Worldwide, at least 9 deaths have been recorded.

LGBT+ groups last week raised the alarm over access to monkeypox jabs in the UK, warning that without urgent action there was a risk the disease would become endemic in the country.

The UK is not the only country facing vaccine shortages. In Europe men are crossing borders to get vaccinated as demand outstrips supply in some European countries, delaying national vaccine rollouts.

The World Health Organization last month declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern — the highest possible designation for a disease under international health regulations. The US has also declared a public health emergency over the outbreak.

Source: Financial Times

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