Mpox vaccination programme extended in London after cluster of new cases

Vaccinations against mpox have been extended after a spike in cases. Credit: PA

Mpox vaccinations will be available in London for longer than the originally cut-off date after a cluster of new cases were diagnosed, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

Eleven cases have been identified in the past few weeks, with the majority affecting unvaccinated people and three who had received only one dose of the vaccine, according to UKHSA.

The national vaccination programme will close as planned towards the end of July, but eligible people in London will be able to receive the jab beyond that date in a bid to .

The UKHSA said the highest risk of mpox remains primarily in interconnected sexual networks of gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.

Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said: “It is vital we respond to recent rises in cases and that is why we are extending mpox vaccinations in London.

“If you live in London or regularly travel there or abroad and have sex and are eligible for vaccination, please do consider it.

“The vaccination programme remains open nationwide for everyone eligible until the end of July, and I would urge all those who haven’t yet received their first or second dose to come forward.”

Since the beginning of 2023, 21 cases of mpox have been reported in the UK, with most cases in London.

Last April there was a spike in cases which led to a vaccination programme being introduced for people at higher risk of catching the infection.

Up to December 31 there were 3,732 confirmed and highly probable mpox cases reported in the UK, the UKHSA said.

One dose of the vaccine offers 78% protection against the virus from 14 days after receiving it, while the second aims to provide “longer-term protection”.

Those eligible for the vaccine include gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men who have multiple sexual partners, participate in group sex or attend sex on premises venues, as well as any staff who work on site.

Health minister Maria Caulfield called for vigilance despite the success of the vaccination scheme.

She said: “Thanks to the swift action taken to roll out mpox vaccines to the most vulnerable, overall cases across the country have been very low in recent months.

“However, we must remain vigilant, and in light of the recent cases in London, it is right to extend the mpox vaccination programme in the capital for first and second doses.”

Mpox, previously called monkeypox, is a rare infection most commonly found in west or central Africa.

Although symptoms may be mild, the infection can cause unusual rashes and blisters, fevers, headaches, muscle ache, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes.

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