Old frozen vax to be tested on monkeypox

Old frozen vax to be tested on monkeypox

Mock-up vials labeled
Mock-up vials labeled "Monkeypox vaccine" and medical syringe are seen in this illustration. (Photo: Reuters)

The Department of Medical Sciences (DMSC) plans to test a freeze-dried version of a live attenuated smallpox vaccine that has been stored in Thailand for more than four decades, to see if it can effectively combat monkeypox.

Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the DMSC, said on Friday the vaccine material has been kept under the supervision of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) since smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

A sample has been sent to the DMSC to ensure it is uncontaminated and still usable, Dr Supakit said.

There are reportedly around 10,000 doses of smallpox vaccine being kept in Thailand.

"As soon as an infection is reported in the country, the department will culture the virus using blood from a recipient of the smallpox vaccine in 1980 in order to build immunity and see if it can safeguard people from monkeypox," he said.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul confirmed the DMSC would perform the virus culture for analysis.

Regarding surveillance measures imposed at airports, the DMSC said it has DNA codes that can detect the virus via the testing of bodily fluids.

Any people or groups considered to be at risk will be sent to Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute for examination, the agency said.

Among tests conducted on foreigners at airports so far, the only virus detected has been herpes, Mr Anutin said.

However, he said authorities would remain vigilant and that screening measures would stay in place.

Meanwhile, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) responded to rumours that monkeypox cases had been found on Koh Chang in Trat.

The DDC said the nine people in question -- including officers from Mu Koh Chang National Park and Koh Lan -- had contracted malaria from two monkeys, with mosquitoes serving as the vector.

Some 200 confirmed and over 100 suspected cases of monkeypox have been detected so far in upwards of more than 20 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

That list now includes Finland, which got its first positive test result on Friday.

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