HSE broadens monkeypox vaccine programme as 6,000 in Ireland could have heightened infection risk
Around 600 people will be offered a vaccine in this first phase of the pre-exposure vaccination programme.
Some people at high risk of contracting monkeypox will be offered a vaccine against the disease in the coming weeks.
This is as the HSE is now widening its monkeypox vaccination process following the most recent National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice to inoculate people at risk of the virus before they are exposed to it.
The health service estimates that around 6,000 people may be at heightened risk of monkeypox infection.
That said, the limited number of current vaccine supplies will only allow vaccination for around 10% of these individuals in the first phase of the vaccine rollout.
Based on current indications regarding global vaccine supplies, the second phase of vaccine rollout in Ireland is likely to commence later this year and into 2023.
To date, the HSE has been offering vaccines to those who are close contacts of monkeypox cases.
However, the health service will now also prioritise the vaccine for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and transgender people who have had a notification to the HSE’s Infectious Disease Monitoring system of early infectious syphilis between December 2021 and July 2022.
It said that analysis undertaken identified this group as including some of those at the highest risk of the virus, aside from close contacts of a confirmed case.
"This group is being prioritised because the nature of the spread of syphilis is similar to that of monkeypox, and syphilis also disproportionately affects gbMSM when compared to other STIs," the HSE's statement reads.
"In addition, the majority of these patients are diagnosed through sexual health clinics which means they can be more quickly identified and invited for vaccination.
"People in this group will therefore be prioritised in the first phase of the monkeypox vaccinations process."
The HSE is working closely with Infectious Disease and Genitourinary Medicine Consultants and the clinical teams in STI clinics around the country to quickly put a process in place to identify and call forward these people for vaccination.
In this first phase of the pre-exposure vaccination programme, the STI teams will offer around 600 people two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart as per the NIAC guidelines.
Services will begin to contact these people directly in the coming days and it is expected that the people identified will receive the vaccine over the coming weeks.
HSE has said the confidentiality of these individuals will be protected.
It also ensured it will maintain a supply of vaccine which will be available for those intermediate and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case.
Further information on monkeypox infection can be found on the HPSC's website here.