A vaccine for people at risk of mpox (Monkeypox) will be available if prescribed by a medical practitioner to people who meet eligibility criteria from Monday 16 January, says Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall.
5,000 vials of the vaccine have been obtained, enough for up to 20,000 people. A further supply of additional vaccines is anticipated to arrive in Aotearoa later this year.
Those initially eligible for the vaccine include:
· Close physical contacts of people infected with mpox, such as sexual partners and people who live in the same household.
· Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who have multiple sexual partners, and trans and cisgender women who are in intimate relationships with these eligible men.
· Those recommended to have the vaccine by medical specialists.
From Tuesday 10 January, people can complete an initial assessment to check if they are at risk of mpox at https://www.burnettfoundation.org.nz or by ringing the mpox Healthline on 0800 116 672 between 8am and 8pm.
Eligible people may be offered a consultation with a medical practitioner at a dedicated clinic. As part of this consultation the option of receiving the vaccine as well as the potential risks and benefits will be discussed.
The vaccine may be prescribed by a medical practitioner following the consultation and provided in line with section 29 of the Medicines Act.
“We encourage eligible people to make an appointment for a free consultation with a doctor by calling Healthline. The consultation is needed as this vaccine has not yet been approved by Medsafe, the New Zealand medicines regulator. The company responsible for the vaccine is expected to apply to Medsafe shortly,” Ayesha Verrall said.
In the initial phase, the mpox consultation service is prioritising first dose for the eligible population. Timing of the recommended second dose is a minimum 28 day interval and can be up to 2 years after the first dose.
This vaccine can also be given to close physical contacts of people infected with mpox after they have been exposed to mpox. If this is within four days after first exposure to mpox it will provide the highest chance of avoiding the disease. If people think they have been exposed to mpox they should call Healthline.
There have been 41 reported cases of mpox in New Zealand as of 9 January. Mpox did not get a foothold in New Zealand in 2022 like it did in other countries. This is down to the great collaboration of community organisations, public health teams, and people taking sensible steps to reduce their risk,” Ayesha Verrall said.
Anyone with any concerns about mpox should seek advice from the place they normally receive health advice, which could be their GP, sexual health clinic or Healthline on 0800 116 672.
The vaccine can only be made available under section 29 of the Medicines Act 1981. This allows for ‘unapproved’ vaccines to be provided to individual medical practitioners for a particular patient after assessing the patient’s needs. The Act also prevents the brand name of the vaccine and volumes available being promoted due to its ‘unapproved’ status.
Advertising the availability of unapproved medicines is prohibited by section 20 of the Medicines Act 1981. This means that the vaccine cannot be advertised nor its availability promoted. It can only be offered by a medical practitioner to a consumer as a proposed medical treatment and then administered after a full informed consent process.