Monkeypox cases are spreading into every region of the UK as vaccination campaign against disease falters, experts warn
- After first arriving in the UK in March, cases have now spread across the country
- Experts say a successful vaccination campaign is needed to stop the disease
- But there are concerns about a shortage of jabs, with supplies arriving slowly
Monkeypox cases are now spreading into every region of the country while the vaccination campaign against the virus is faltering, experts have warned.
When the virus – which causes painful blisters across the body – first arrived in the UK in May, the vast majority of infections were recorded in London.
Last month, regional cases accounted for only a fifth of the total. But now, more than 2,800 cases have been confirmed, and according to Government figures over a third are in regions outside of London.
Particularly high numbers have been seen in the South East, which has recorded more than 230 cases, and the North West, with 150.
Currently monkeypox is predominantly infecting gay men and spread through close contact, but the updated figures come as sexual health experts warn that overwhelming demand for the vaccine being offered mean at-risk men are struggling to access it.
A long-standing smallpox vaccine has been deployed to inoculate against monkeypox because of the viruses’ high level of similarity. And scientists say a successful vaccination campaign is crucial because the virus can be deadly if it reaches children or pregnant women.
Experts have warned the monkeypox vaccine campaign is faltering. Pictured is a man being vaccinated against the disease in Lille, France, today
Last week, the US – which has seen more than 6,600 monkeypox cases and declared it a public health emergecy – reported that five children and one pregnant woman have caught the virus.
None of the cases was life-threatening, but reports suggest at least ten adults have now died worldwide after catching the disease.
The Mail on Sunday was first to report concerns among clinicians of a shortage of monkeypox vaccines last month.
Insiders told this newspaper that at least 200,000 doses would be needed, but only 30,000 jabs were on hand.
A week later, health chiefs announced they had purchased an extra 100,000. However, London clinicians say supplies are arriving slowly.
‘The majority of London clinics are running out of vaccines on a daily basis and are desperately trying to work with what little they have,’ says Dr John McSorley, a consultant sexual health expert at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.
‘Clinics are essentially running like budget airlines – overbooking patients for jabs they don’t have in the hope they’ll have enough on the day.’
Dr McSorley, former president of the British Association For Sexual Health And HIV, said the spread of monkeypox into other regions of the country is the direct effect of this slow rollout.
‘These rising numbers around the country are the result of inaction from the Government.
‘We need to get ahead of this disease while we still have the chance, and the way to do that is to vaccinate faster.’