Thousands of tiny vials of a rare and valuable vaccine are about to be sent to health clinics across Israel for the country’s first attack to control an outbreak of monkeypox.
- The World Health Organization has declared monkeypox a global emergency
- Israel credited with rolling out world’s fastest COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021
- Now it’s ordering a large stockpix of monkeypox vaccines to stop the disease from spreading
Israel’s health authorities have taken the unusual approach of securing 10,000 monkeypox vaccines for its residents, despite only having recorded 125 cases of the disease.
They have also expressed their desire to get more supplies in future.
Gal Wagner – an LGBT medical expert in Tel Aviv – said monkeypox was “filled with requests” for a vaccine since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global emergency, the agency’s highest level of warning.
“People are afraid of the virus and they really want to protect themselves,” Dr Wagner said.
“When we started talking about vaccinations in Israel and the Ministry of Health announced that they had purchased vaccinations for Israel, we saw a number of patients who were really happy and wanted to get the vaccinations right away.”
Israel’s quick response to monkeypox is the second time in recent years that the nation has been swiftly mobilizing against the health threat.
‘There is no room for contentment’
Dr Wagner’s clinic will be one of the first in Israel to offer the vaccine to high-risk patients, including men born after 1980 who have HIV, men on HIV pre-exposure meds, or men who have sexually transmitted infections this year. contracted the disease.
Monkeypox – which has been found in more than 70 countries – is not a sexually transmitted disease.
However, this global outbreak has so far been found mostly in the sexual networks of men who have sex with other men.
The WHO has cautioned that no one should assume that the outbreak will occur only within this community.
WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Henri P. Kluge, said: “There is no room for complacency … With its rapidly expanding outbreak – with every hour, day and week – its efforts are being made in previously unaffected regions.” expanding reach.”
The WHO said the disease – which belongs to the family of viruses similar to smallpox – is spread through close contact with an infected person.
It can also be spread through infected particles on objects such as bedding or towels.
People infected with monkeypox usually come down with fever and body aches, before the blistering rash appears on their body.
Although it can be quite painful, most patients make a full recovery.
Israel wants to be world leader in fighting infectious diseases
Going hard and fast on vaccination is a technology Israel relied on when COVID-19 emerged.
At the start of the pandemic, the government struck a deal with Pfizer to obtain a supply of the vaccine in exchange for giving the pharmaceutical company access to Israel’s personal health data.
When the vaccines became widely available in early 2021, the country was credited with having the world’s fastest rollout.
It was also the first country in the world to introduce the third and fourth doses of the vaccine.
Itzchak Levy, a researcher at Sheba Medical Center, said the country was trying to position itself as one of the most prepared at the onset of an emerging problem.
“The most important thing when you fight an infectious disease is to prevent it,” Dr. Levy said.
“And any disease that you can prevent with vaccination, I think is a miracle.”
Health officials have hailed Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine response as a major success, and credit the country’s approach to lifting restrictions in front of others, including Australia.
Fears stigma will slow global response
The WHO has expressed concern that countries will not move quickly against monkeypox because of the “stigma against men having sex with men”.
One of the largest outbreaks of monkeypox in the world has been in the United States, where LGBTQ activists have expressed frustration with a sluggish and indifferent response.
Earlier this week, Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, declared the growing presence of monkeypox in the country a “communicable disease event of national importance”.
The Australian Department of Health said it had secured a small supply of monkeypox vaccines for high-risk cases, but did not specify the number of vaccines.
Australia has not announced the launch of a comprehensive vaccination programme.
Israeli LGBT activist George Avni said some people in his community had begun to change their behavior to protect themselves before the vaccine was available.
“Some people are scared and worried about it,” he said.
“Some people have put off hook-ups, or going to gay saunas or clubs, because they were worried about getting infected.”
However, Mr Avni said, he was not sure if he was going to receive vaccinations at this stage.
“If I have to wean my sex partner down for a while, or just go back to condoms, that may reduce my chances of getting infected,” he said.
“So I guess I’d rather do that than get vaccinated.”