This week, an initial shipment of monkeypox vaccines is scheduled for arrival in Israel. The weekend will see the several thousands of doses rolled out to those who are regarded as most at risk of contracting the disease.
The Health Ministry issued a letter to the heads of hospitals in Israel and the four health maintenance organizations in the country.
It said in the letter that men born after 1980 who are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication for reducing their risk of contracting HIV, or those who are already positive for HIV, will be given the highest priority.
This is because smallpox vaccine, which is also effective against monkeypox, was administered in Israel until 1980, with the military continuing it for several years more.
Furthermore, other people who will be on the high priority list for receiving the vaccine would include those who have tested positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis since the 1st of January.
Furthermore, the Health Ministry added that those who have been exposed to monkeypox, but do not fit in any of the categories mentioned above will also be considered.
The vaccine has received approval for people above 18, but the ministry said that it could be used for teenagers and children in case of exposure, as early data shows it is effective.
More shipments of the vaccine, which comprise of 10,000 doses will arrive in Israel in the next few weeks.
At risk people
An infectious disease specialist and Clalit health fund’s head of LGBTQ medicine, Dr. Roy Zucker said that they needed to take action immediately to ensure there is not a wider outbreak. Currently, the virus is only spreading between bisexual, gay, or other men who have had sex with men.
Israel currently has about 105 cases of the disease, which is low and Dr. Zucker said that taking action right now would prevent a larger outbreak.
He said that preventative treatment should be the priority, which means isolating the ones who are infected and vaccinating those who are at-risk.
He said that patients who have swollen lymph nodes, a rash or new blisters should immediately consult with a doctor who can ask them to get tested if appropriate.
Media reports said that the Health Ministry that Israel has a number of monkeypox cases that are undiagnosed, due to which testing capabilities will be expanded in the next few days.
The first case of monkeypox had been reported in the country back in May and communal spread had been detected in the previous month.
The fact that monkeypox is contagious is a cause for concern and even though it is mostly mild, there are cases where it can lead to serious illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus as a global emergency, considering that it has now spread to more than 70 countries. This could trigger a scramble for the vaccine, which is already scarce.
The disease is characterized by a rash that may look like blisters or a rash and it is usually skin-to-skin contact that transmits it.