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MS11 - Monkeypox

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Mr Speaker,

With your permission, I would like to make a statement to the House in my capacity as Chairman of the Monkeypox Response Taskforce.

Mr Speaker, the ongoing Monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern. The virus spreads most commonly through direct skin-to-skin contact; it is not a sexually transmitted infection, but the evidence is clear that the individuals currently most susceptible to infection are young and middle-aged men who have sex with men, who have sexual contact with new or multiple partners. However the disease can affect anyone; is by no means limited to men who have sex with men; and the government is very clear that the LGBT community should not face stigmatisation as a result of the outbreak. In infections prior to the current outbreak, the rate of death was between 1 and 3 percent. In the majority of people, symptoms are mild and do not require hospital treatment: particularly vulnerable are children and the immunocompromised.

Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of Monkeypox: a fever a week or two after exposure, a rash, and lesions that last for up to four weeks before crusting and falling away. Some people will exhibit large numbers of lesions; others may experience only a single lesion, perhaps in the mouth or on the genitals. The government’s advice is that anyone who believes they may have been exposed to Monkeypox, or who believes they may have Monkeypox, should contact their GP and get tested, refrain from sex and intimate contact, and should not share bedding, towels or clothing with other people.

In addressing the outbreak, the government has to make difficult choices. I can confirm today that the government has made available £25 million in funding to procure 1,400,000 vaccines by the end of next year. Current stocks stand at around 20,000, with another 80,000 to be delivered in January. We of course would like to have more doses available much more quickly, but we are constrained by practical limitations on the vaccine’s manufacturing. We have made the decision to exclusively order the JYNNEOS vaccine manufactured by Bavarian Nordic; the main alternative, ACAM2000, is not safe for people with certain medical conditions such as HIV and is associated with severe side effects. JYNNEOS is a two-dose vaccine; two jabs are needed to ensure immunity.

The government, considering the availability of doses and the risk of increasing transmission, has to make difficult decisions about to whom it offers vaccinations. Until January, we can fully vaccinate only 10,000 people; thereafter we can vaccinate an additional 40,000, and in a year’s time 700,000. There are no easy options. On the one hand, we can prioritise the most clinically vulnerable. But that may not limit general transmission, which could mean that the number of cases increases exponentially and risks overwhelming the NHS. On the other hand, we can prioritise the groups most at-risk of contracting and spreading the virus: men who have sex with multiple male partners, or attend ‘sex on premises’ venues. This may cut off the transmission cycle and limit overall case numbers; but it is unclear how willing people will be to come forwards, how the risk level of different individuals can be objectively assessed, and how many individuals this criteria might apply to.

After taking extensive medical and scientific advice, much of which is in the realms of hypotheses, and with many experts expressing different view, the government is choosing to take a blended approach.

A first and second dose of the JYNNEOS vaccine will be offered to anyone who is clinically vulnerable, and anyone in a healthcare setting who is caring or will be caring for someone infected with Monkeypox. A first dose only at this time will be offered to men who have sex with multiple male partners, and people who have already had close contact with someone who is confirmed to be infected with Monkeypox. Second doses for these groups will be offered from January, and within 12 months we will have the capacity to offer both jabs to 700,000 people. Our approach has two strands: one, to protect the most vulnerable and prevent the spread of the virus in healthcare settings. Two, to attempt to cut off transmission by immunising the people most at-risk of catching or spreading the virus.

The government’s general advice to all citizens remains the same: be aware of the symptoms of Monkeypox and do not engage in close contact with somebody who may have the virus; if you yourself may have the virus, contact your doctor to get tested and avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Do not share bedding, towels or clothes.

I am acutely conscious of the fact that LGBT people in this country are already a vulnerable group, and deeply concerned with ensuring that whilst we acknowledge the medical and scientific advice, we are not stigmatising or castigating men who have sex with men, or indeed men who have sex with multiple male partners. It is important to get the balance right between protecting public health and securing civil liberties. So the government is not issuing official advice to refrain from or limit sex and intimate contact generally, nor are we taking measures to restrict the operations of premises catering for sexual encounters, and I want to be abundantly clear that the vaccine will be available on a walk-in basis at local GP surgeries so that patients will not need to discuss their sexual orientation or behaviours with medical staff. Aside from the clinically vulnerable, we are trusting individuals to self-select for vaccination. And I am working at the moment to ensure that young males who may be under the age of 18 are able to get the vaccine if they are eligible without needing the consent of a parent or guardian.

I must emphasise that we all have a role to play in stopping the spread, through promoting awareness if nothing else. I would be grateful if all honourable and right honourable members could do their bit in the coming days to share information from the NHS, the government and the UK Health Security Agency regarding Monkeypox across a range of channels.

Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.


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Mr. Speaker,


I welcome the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister. I would like to echo the Government's statement that LGBTQ people should not face stigmatisation as a result of this outbreak. This is a public health issue that requires a further expansion of vaccine production and implementation. However, while I support the Government's effort to acquire the Imvanex vaccine over the ACAM2000 vaccine. However, I think it's important to note is the Government working with our allies in the US and in Europe to expand the production of the Imvanex jab, as the vaccine already had significant demand around the world before this outbreak? Preventing a major vaccine shortage will be important to help contain the spread of the virus.

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