UK orders smallpox vaccine in response to monkeypox cases

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Esben_H)
(Image: Getty/Esben_H)

Related tags Smallpox Vaccine Vaccination Infectious disease

Health authorities ordered smallpox vaccines after monkeypox cases were reported in the UK.

On September 7 the first case of human monkeypox was reported in England. Public Health England (PHE) officials responded by ordering Imvanex, Bavarian Nordic’s smallpox vaccine.

The vaccine has since been used to vaccinate health care workers treating the patients who contracted monkeypox.

A few days after the first case, a second case was reported in the UK. Both patients were believed to have contracted the infection while visiting Nigeria, which has just experienced an outbreak of the virus.

Imvanex is approved for the prevention of smallpox, but it has also proven to be effective in inhibiting the infection of humans with monkeypox.

Currently, there are no approved vaccines for monkeypox. According to the World Health Organization​ (WHO), the virus has limited secondary spread from human-to-human transmission and is often spread through contact with rodents and primates.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox but not as deadly nor as human-to-human transmissible, commonly the virus results in severe swollen lymph nodes and a distinctive rash. Case fatality is less than 10% in documented events.

The vaccine is currently in an ongoing field study in the Democratic Republic of Congo to evaluate it for the prevention of monkeypox. The first ever recorded case of the virus was observed in the country in 1970.

The ongoing study is a collaborative effort between the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Bavarian Nordic, and local health authorities. The CDC has sponsored the study, which has enrolled over 1,000 healthcare and frontline workers who are at high risk for monkeypox in their daily work. 

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