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The NHS is now offering the second monkeypox vaccine dose to everyone who is eligible, offering long term protection against the virus.
Almost 68,000 people have been vaccinated against monkeypox since the first cases in this outbreak were identified in England in May this year.
The second monkeypox vaccination offers long-lasting protection, and can be given from around two-to-three months after the first dose. People will be invited by their sexual health clinic when they are due for their second jab.
The vaccine offers 78% protection against the virus from just one dose, 14 days after receiving it, according to new vaccine effectiveness research by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA).
People who are eligible for the vaccine are those at greatest risk of exposure – in line with UKHSA guidance. This includes eligible gay, bisexual and/or men who have sex with men (GBMSM), along with specific frontline staff and those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case.
Up to 21 November, there have been 3,543 cases in total in England.
Those eligible for their first vaccine can still use NHS England’s monkeypox vaccine site finder, which includes over 60 sites across the country, to find their nearest vaccination clinic – the finder allows people to receive their vaccination confidentially if they choose to.
Steve Russell, NHS National Director of Vaccinations and Screening, said: “The second monkeypox vaccine will offer essential, long-lasting protection, so I urge everyone eligible to come forward when invited, as a few minutes of your time in exchange for long-lasting protection is a good deal.
“Thanks to the efforts of staff, we have already vaccinated almost 68,000 people who are eligible, and for those who are yet to get their first vaccine, our monkeypox site finder makes it easier than ever to find your nearest site, so please don’t hesitate to get that first important dose.”
Dr Merav Kliner, Incident Director at UKHSA, said: “We continue to see fewer reported cases of monkeypox in the UK and we know vaccination is playing a crucial role in this. Earlier this week, we published new evidence that shows a single vaccine dose provides strong protection against monkeypox, and a second dose is expected to offer even greater and longer lasting protection.
“It’s vital people remain alert to the risk monkeypox poses and take action to protect themselves and others. When you’re invited for your second dose, please take up the offer – it takes two weeks for the vaccine to have maximum effect so the sooner you get vaccinated, the better.”
Common signs of monkeypox infection include the development of a new rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes.
Anyone who thinks they have symptoms of monkeypox should limit interactions with others and contact their local sexual health clinic or phone 111. You should not visit A&E or your GP.
Anyone can get monkeypox; however, currently most cases have been in men who are gay, bisexual and/or men who have sex with men, so it’s particularly important for these people to be aware of the symptoms.
The infection is passed on mainly through close intimate contact in interconnected sexual networks but monkeypox can also be spread from person to person through touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash or by touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs.
Alex Sparrowhawk, Health Improvement Specialist at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The country’s monkeypox outbreak hasn’t gone away, which means strong uptake and proper promotion of second vaccine doses is very important. Alongside continuing to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and latest monkeypox health advice.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect against monkeypox with two doses offering maximum protection. It’s crucial that those who are eligible know that second doses are now available, as well as the option for first doses for those who haven’t yet come forward for that.”