France urges monkeypox jab for sex workers
France is urging gay and bisexual men, trans people with multiple sex partners, sex workers, and other ‘at-risk’ groups to get vaccinated against monkeypox even if they don’t think they’ve been exposed, health authority HAS said in a statement on Friday, describing these as “the groups most exposed to the virus.”
The advice has been given in addition to pre-existing guidance suggesting that people get vaccinated if they’ve tested positive for monkeypox or believe a recent contact put them at risk.
France has recorded 577 cases of the virus so far, with 387 in the Ile-de-France region (including Paris) alone. Men who have sex with men accounted for a whopping 97% of cases where information on patients’ sex lives was available as of early July, while 75% of those had reported multiple sex partners in the weeks preceding their symptoms’ appearance.
“Faced with the spread of the virus, the kinetics of the epidemic and the difficulty tracing contacts” – thanks in part to a rise in anonymous sex during Pride Month festivities – the HAS concluded that preventatively vaccinating the groups most at risk of infection was the best way to curtail the spread.
Health workers caring for those with monkeypox should seek out the vaccine only on a “case-by-case basis,” however, the agency suggested, claiming “routine hygiene measures” and PPE “makes the risk of infection very low.”
France is far from the only nation to see a steep uptick in monkeypox cases. The World Health Organization announced on Thursday that cases of the virus worldwide had spiked 77% over the past seven days alone, confirming 6,027 cases in 59 countries as of Monday. Most of those – 4,920 cases – are located in Europe, the first place where the disease emerged outside its native Africa earlier this year.
While no one outside of Africa has died of the current strain of monkeypox – the chickenpox-like virus usually clears up within 30 days – the WHO earlier this month warned there was “no room for complacency” regarding the “fast-moving outbreak,” with European regional director Hans Kluge calling for a massive ramp-up in monkeypox surveillance by European nations and “sound public health investments” to fight infection.
He also blamed “stigma” for the disease’s spread, likening the public perception that it was a “gay disease” to the initial public response to the HIV epidemic.