Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Mpox is the new preferred term given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to what was previously known as Monkeypox.
A UK Strategy for mpox Control, agreed by all UK public health agencies, to control and ultimately end the current mpox outbreak was published on 7 December. Vaccination is one of the eight public health interventions stated in the strategy to meet the strategic aim to reduce harm; suppress the current UK transmission; minimise the transmission of imported cases and contribute to the reduction in global burden.
Given the current context of the reduction of positive cases, reduction of transmission of mpox and the evaluation of the intradermal administration pilot in Wales (as advised by the JCVI), a revised vaccination deployment strategy for Wales has been developed to ensure all eligible individuals are offered a primary vaccine dose. We will continue to keep the programme under review to ensure our approach reflects the most recent JCVI advice.
The eligibility criteria remains unchanged, but health boards will be expected to develop a mechanism to review their current data on a quarterly basis, to ensure any new individuals that may have recently become eligible for vaccination have been identified and offered a vaccine.
Health boards are inviting individuals who have received a first dose for a second dose, at the frequency prescribed by the clinical advice. The intradermal dose sparing technique will continue to be used for both first and second doses, given the pan-Wales pilot undertaken did not raise any clinical concerns.
Individuals identified from the initial cohort who have not received their primary dose will still have access to vaccination through our ‘Nobody left behind’ principle. We urge everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to take up their offer.
Everyone should be aware of the symptoms of mpox regardless of sexual orientation or gender. First symptoms include a fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering and exhaustion. A rash usually appears after the onset of fever, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals, hands and feet. The rash can look like chickenpox, forming a scab, which later falls off.
Some groups are at increased risk, as the current outbreak is primarily affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM). Our priority is to offer the vaccine to GBMSM people who are at the highest risk of exposure to mpox. Anyone who thinks they have mpox symptoms should contact NHS 111 or call a sexual health clinic immediately and avoid close personal or sexual contact with others until they have consulted a medical professional.
Numbers of mpox cases are reducing, but not everyone who is eligible for a vaccine has received one. Worldwide, mpox has not gone away. As we move towards the spring and summer, with many festivals and events, both in the UK and abroad, there is a chance that numbers could climb again. Maximising vaccination uptake ahead of the festival season is so important. Those eligible can get their vaccine now. If you are eligible, please come forward so you can enjoy the upcoming festival season and protect yourself, your friends and your loved ones.