The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed Australia securing a new third-generation monkeypox virus vaccine to help keep patients across the nation safe.
The federal Government has secured 450,000 doses of the monkeypox virus vaccine by Bavarian Nordic. The first delivery of approximately 22,000 doses will arrive in Australia later this week with the remainder to arrive later this year and into 2023.
RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements welcomed the news.
“This is a breakthrough moment in the fight against the monkeypox virus,” he said.
“Fortunately, we have not had many cases in Australia and by rolling out this vaccine we can limit community transmission and stop the virus taking hold. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation or ATAGI has recommended key groups to be vaccinated. The states and territories will receive the vaccine and be responsible for managing the rollout within their jurisdictions and that includes prioritising access to the initial doses based on who is at greatest risk of exposure or severe illness and their local context. So, stay tuned for further details about when you can get vaccinated.”
Dr Clements urged Australians to remain calm and listen to expert health advice.
“Once again as a community we all have a role to play,” he said.
“Given everything we have been through over the last two and a half years, it’s natural for people to be anxious or concerned about a new virus entering our shores called monkeypox. You can be reassured that this virus is not nearly as easy to contract as COVID-19 and although it is a ‘cousin’ of smallpox it is not anywhere near as deadly.
“So, there is no need for undue alarm; however, there are small but important steps we can all take to limit transmission of this virus including having those at-risk populations vaccinated as soon as possible. I encourage anyone to seek care if you are displaying symptoms, which include a fever, a distinctive rash that looks like tiny blisters, which can occur on any part of the body including the face, and swollen lymph nodes. Those who have recently returned from overseas, or who have been in contact with a case here in Australia, and who develop any of these symptoms should be particularly alert and seek medical advice immediately.
“It is also critical that we do not stigmatise people who contract this virus. Many people may have seen recent media reports of identified cases predominantly being amongst gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. Please remember that anyone can contract monkeypox and it is not a sexually transmitted disease. This is just a virus, and we need to deal with monkeypox without stigma or unhelpful commentary.
“I don’t want any patients to feel like there are any barries to seeking treatment. If you suspect you have monkeypox please reach out to your GP because we are here to help without judgment. GPs and general practice teams will be at the ready to roll up our sleeves and vaccinate eligible patients if we are needed. We are always there for our communities.”