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GHA launches monkeypox pre-exposure vaccination programme for those at risk

The GHA has launched a pre-exposure vaccination programme for those who are at risk of being in contact with someone who has monkeypox.

Further supplies of the smallpox vaccine have been secured though this has to date been offered to contacts of diagnosed cases of monkeypox as a “post-exposure” treatment.

The vaccines will be delivered via the Well Person clinic at the PCC and the GHA said patient confidentiality “will be preserved at all times”.

“Although there is no specific monkeypox vaccine, it is estimated that the smallpox vaccine is around 85% effective at preventing infection,” a GHA spokesman said.

“A smallpox vaccine will therefore be offered to those who may be at higher risk of coming into contact with monkeypox, including men who have sex with men, and healthcare workers who have been identified at being of higher risk because of their roles.”

To register interest and book an appointment to receive the pre-exposure vaccine please either telephone 22258707 and select option 1 or email smallpoxvaccine@gha.gi providing your name, date of birth, GHA number and a telephone number. The GHA guarantees that this information will be treated confidentially.

“To date, 6 individuals have been diagnosed in Gibraltar with monkeypox and whilst this is a highly unpleasant illness, all have fortunately recovered well.”

“However, monkeypox is a serious illness and can result in death.”

The Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, said the World Health Organisation have declared monkeypox as a global public health emergency.

“Fortunately, the cases that we have diagnosed in Gibraltar have all made a good recovery but it is a highly unpleasant and painful condition,” Dr Carter added.

“We are pleased that we have received supplies of smallpox vaccine and are able to offer a targeted pre-exposure vaccination program for those who are most at risk of coming into contact with the disease.”

“I would strongly encourage individuals who are at higher risk to contact us to arrange vaccination.”

“The smallpox vaccine is a safe vaccine and your confidentiality will be protected.”

Monkeypox is transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact, the GHA said.

“It is not a sexually transmitted infection,” the GHA spokesman added.

“Worldwide, although most cases are being diagnosed in men who have sex with men, heterosexual individuals and also children have become infected through close contact with cases.”

“Treatment is aimed at trying to control the symptoms, self-isolation to limit the onward transmission and offering close contacts (identified through contact tracing and confidential interviews undertaken by the Department of Public Health) a post-exposure vaccination with a smallpox vaccine.”

Individuals who develop a rash with skin blisters, fever, headaches, profound weakness and back pains are advised to call 111 immediately to be clinically assessed and for testing to be arranged.

Individuals who experience these symptoms should not attend A&E or the Primary Care Centre.

This means that individuals with symptoms can be assessed and tested as quickly as possible whilst also reducing the risk of spread to others, including GHA staff and patients who may be vulnerable.

“Gibraltar is in a fortunate position to have access to the smallpox vaccine to be able to offer a pre-exposure vaccine to those who are at greater risk of contracting monkeypox,” GHA Director General, Dr Patrick Geoghegan, said.

“I would like to thank the community messaging and engagement that has been undertaken by the Gibraltar LGBGTQ+ Committee and the Equality Rights Group for working closely with the Director of Public Health and GHA to promote monkeypox awareness and safety messaging, and supporting the vaccine programme.”

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