Health services want more urgency in vaccinating risk groups against monkeypox
A week and a half after Minster Ernst Kuipers of Public Health announced that the Netherlands would vaccinate the people most at risk of contracting the monkeypox virus, the GGD health services still don't know when the first vaccines will be administered. SeksHAG, the sexual health advisory group for GPs, and Soa Aids want to see more urgency in starting the vaccination campaign, they said to NRC.
On Thursday, the public health institute RIVM reported nearly 550 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the Netherlands, almost all men who have sex with men. Though, in principle, anyone can get the virus, which spreads through close skin-to-skin contact. According to GP Rob Hermanussen of SeksHag, that number is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Many people have limited symptoms and don’t go to the doctor. I also suspect many symptoms are so mild that the doctor doesn’t think monkeypox. In addition, Belgian research has shown that it happens that people don’t get symptoms,” Hermanussen said to NRC. He called on Kuipers to show more urgency and vaccinate risk groups faster. Soa Aids Nederland also called for vaccination to start sooner and for vaccines to be immediately provided to all GGDs.
On July 7, Kuipers told parliament that he wanted to start vaccinations “as soon as possible” - first in Amsterdam, where most infections now occur, and then in the rest of the country. The target group for the preventive vaccine is men who have sex with men and transgender people who now receive the HIV prevention pill PrEP through the GGD, those on the PrEP waiting lists, and people who are known to have an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
About 32,000 people in the Netherlands are eligible for this vaccination, each requiring two doses. The Netherlands has about 70,000 vaccines available, so just enough, according to NRC.
The RIVM told the newspaper that it wants to start vaccinating people as soon as possible, but the vaccination campaign must happen “carefully.” According to a spokesperson, the smallpox vaccine’s effectiveness against monkeypox is not yet known - the vaccine is not registered as a preventive for monkeypox in Europe, unlike in the United States and Canada. So recipients must get additional information.
The RIVM must also set up a registration system for possible side effects and launch a parallel study into how effective the vaccine is. The institute is also working on “training and lining up” staff during summer vacation. And given the scarcity of vaccines, “invitations must be sent in a careful manner,” the spokesperson said.