Sydney, Aug 5 . Health authorities in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) will begin the nation’s first rollout of monkeypox vaccination on August 8 amid a spike in the number of cases.
As of Friday, Australia had 58 confirmed monkeypox cases, 56 of whom caught the virus overseas, and 33 were registered in NSW, reports Xinhua news agency.
In response to the escalating crisis, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said people in high-risk groups, including gay and bisexual men, sex workers and those who are HIV-positive, would be eligible for the first 5,500 doses.
Those doses are among a shipment of 22,000 due to arrive in Australia in the coming days with another 30,000 allocated for NSW next month and then hundreds of thousands more next year.
The federal government has ordered 450,000 doses, which are based on a smallpox vaccine, from the Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic.
Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said the country had responded early to the outbreak, by securing vaccines “in a time of limited supply and significant global demand”.
“This is an important step towards minimizing the risk and impact of any further monkeypox outbreaks in Australia,” he said.
Chant, however, has warned that the vaccines, although important for controlling the disease’s spread, do not “provide complete protection from the virus”.
“We urge people to look out for symptoms, especially those who have recently travelled overseas in Britain, Europe and North America.”
Those symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, sweats and chills, coughing and sore throat.
The disease, which usually lasts from two to four weeks, also often causes a painful rash that looks like blisters or pimples with the lesions evolving through stages before falling off.