Monkeypox cases are spreading across UK regions as vaccination campaign against disease fails, experts warn
- After first arriving in the UK in March, cases have spread across the country
- Experts say a successful vaccination campaign is needed to stop the disease
- But there are concerns about a shortage of punches, with supplies arriving slowly
Cases of monkeypox are now spreading across all regions of the country as the vaccination campaign against the virus falters, experts have warned.
When the virus, which causes painful blisters all over the body, first hit the UK in May, the vast majority of infections were reported in London.
Last month, regional cases accounted for just one-fifth of the total. But now, more than 2,800 cases have been confirmed and, according to government figures, more than a third are in regions outside London.
Particularly high numbers have been seen in the south-east, which has recorded more than 230 cases, and in the north-west, with 150.
Monkeypox is currently predominantly infecting gay men and is spread through close contact, but the updated figures come as sexual health experts warn that overwhelming demand for the vaccine on offer means men at risk have difficulties in accessing it.
A long-standing smallpox vaccine has been deployed to inoculate against monkeypox because of the high level of similarity of the viruses. 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 that the monkeypox vaccination campaign is faltering. Pictured, a man was vaccinated against the disease in Lille, France today
Last week, the United States, which has seen more than 6,600 cases of smallpox and declared it a public health emergency, reported that five children and a pregnant woman had contracted the virus.
None of the cases were life-threatening, but reports suggest that at least ten adults have now died worldwide after contracting the disease.
The Mail on Sunday first reported concerns among doctors about a shortage of smallpox vaccines last month.
Experts told this newspaper that at least 200,000 doses would be needed, but only 30,000 shots were on hand.
A week later, health chiefs announced they had bought 100,000 more. However, doctors in London say supplies are slow to arrive.
“Most clinics in London are running out of vaccines every day and are desperately trying to work with what little they have,” says Dr John McSorley, an expert consultant in sexual health at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.
“Clinics basically operate like low-cost airlines: they overbook patients for shots they don’t have in the hope they’ll get enough for the day.”
Dr McSorley, former president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said the spread of monkeypox to other regions of the country is the direct effect of this slow rollout.
“These growing numbers across the country are the result of the Government’s inaction.
“We need to get ahead of this disease while we still have the chance, and the way to do that is to vaccinate faster.”
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