The government has been urged to step up its vaccination campaign against monkeypox to cover everyone at risk of contracting the disease through sexual contact.
The latest figures show there have been 503 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the Netherlands since the end of April. The increase of 101 in the last week is the biggest since the outbreak began, although some cases are not confirmed until several weeks after infection.
A pilot vaccination scheme is due to start in Amsterdam in the next few weeks for a group of 2,000 people who have been prescribed PrEP, a preventive medicine that reduces the risk of contracting the HIV virus. So far monkeypox has circulated predominantly among men who have sex with other men.
If the scheme is successful the Imvanex vaccine, which is based on the smallpox vaccine, will be rolled out to 32,000 people around the country who are HIV positive or at high risk of contracting STIs, health minister Ernst Kuipers told parliament last week.
Richard Keldouis, spokesman for PrEP patients’ group PrEPnu, said: ‘We’d like to see the vaccine made available not just to people who are prescribed PrEP or use sexual health clinics, but the whole group of men who have sex with men and have different sexual relationships.’
Soa Aids Nederland said the group eligible for the vaccine should be widened to ‘all men who have sex with men and transgender people with varying sexual contacts.’ The health ministry should also consider buying extra vaccine doses, the organisation said.
The health ministry said it had enough vaccines in stock at the moment, even if the risk group turned out to be larger. ‘We want to target people who are at high risk for the vaccine as directly as possible,’ said a spokesman.
‘It may be necessary at a later stage to widen this group, at which point we will seek advice from experts.’
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