Govt seeks monkeypox vaccine

Govt seeks monkeypox vaccine

Experts say 'no need' to stockpile jabs

The government is seeking to secure a supply of smallpox vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) to bolster the public's immunity in the event of a viral outbreak, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Thursday.

Although Thailand has yet to record or detect any case of monkeypox infection, the increasing number of foreign arrivals in the country will heighten the risk of contagion, he said.

Mr Anutin made the request on May 5 in a discussion with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus on the sidelines of the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Separately, Prof Dr Somsak Lolekha, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatricians of Thailand and the Paediatric Society of Thailand, said monkeypox won't become a major public health risk in the kingdom as a large part of the population have been vaccinated against smallpox.

Past studies from Africa suggest the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Immunity induced by the smallpox vaccine can last up to 80 years after vaccination," Prof Dr Somsak said.

Despite the benefits, Thailand stopped mass administration of the vaccine once the WHO declared the disease eradicated in 1980, because live-attenuated vaccines -- such as the smallpox shot -- have been known to cause severe, sometimes deadly, adverse effects, especially among those who are immuno-compromised, he added.

As such there is no need for the country to stockpile monkeypox vaccines, he said citing the recommendations jointly-issued by five medical organisations.

Dr Chakrarat Pittayawonganon, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said no monkeypox cases have been detected in Thailand's monkey population.

As wild primates, rodents and small mammals endemic to Africa are known vectors of the monkeypox virus, all imported animals from the region must be checked and registered with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, he said.

Meanwhile, DDC specialist Dr Taweesap Siraprapasiri suggested that people exercise extra caution when they gather in crowded public places to avoid infections, pointing out a major cluster was detected after a pride festival in Spain.

Those who attended the event are advised to get tested for monkeypox for the sake of disease control, Dr Taweesap said.

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