NHS steps up monkeypox vaccination programme in London as UK cases continue to rise

More than 2,000 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the UK

The NHS is stepping up its NHS vaccination programme against monkeypox in London as more jab supplies become available.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it had procured 100,000 more doses of an effective vaccine this week as cases of the disease continue to rise.

As of 18 July, there were 2,137 confirmed cases in the UK, 2,050 of which are in England with the majority in London.

Anyone can contract monkeypox but the majority of UK cases continue to be among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

London will receive extra vaccine doses in a bid to break chains of transmission (Photo: Getty Images)

Who can get the vaccine?

Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered the smallpox (Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA)) vaccine Imvanex.

The jab is available across England, but London will receive extra doses of the existing supply in an effort to break chains of transmission as quickly as possible.

The UKHSA currently advises that MVA is offered to:

  • healthcare workers who are caring for and who are due to start caring for a patient with confirmed monkeypox. This includes some staff in sexual health clinics who are assessing any suspected cases
  • gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) at highest risk of exposure
  • people who have already had close contact with a patient with confirmed monkeypox

NHS England said thousands more people who are eligible in the capital will now be contacted about getting the vaccine jab as plans are scaled up and more supply becomes available. The public are advised to wait to be contacted about a jab.

In London, there are more than 18 clinics offering vaccinations including Dean Street sexual health clinic in Soho, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Guy’s Hospital in Southwark, Mortimer Market Centre in Camden and Barking Hospital Outpatient Centre East.

Visit NHS.UK to find your local clinic. Stay at home and call 111 for advice if you are unable to contact a sexual health clinic.

Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations, said: “While the risk of monkeypox remains very low and nearly every case we have seen so far has recovered quickly, over 2,000 people have been affected by the virus.

“On the whole, the cases we are seeing are among gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men, with a significant number coming from London and so it is vital that those who are most likely to get the virus get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“The NHS is now scaling up its plans to get people vaccinated, particularly in London, thanks to the efforts of staff who are working hard to help stop onward spread, in line with UKHSA advice.

“Thousands more people will be invited very shortly with the number of clinics expanded too, and as we have done with the most successful Covid vaccination programme in history, the NHS will leave no stone unturned in ensuring everyone who is eligible can get protected.

“We are asking people to wait to be contacted and to come forward at the earliest opportunity possible when invited to get vaccinated.”

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

If you are infected with monkeypox, it can take between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. The first symptoms include:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

A rash usually appears between one and five days after the first symptoms, and will typically begin on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox as it starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later drop off and symptoms should clear up within two to four weeks.