Monkeypox Vaccination

Monkeypox Vaccination

(Question Time, 9 August 2022, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is directed to the Minister for Health. How is NSW Health working to reduce the spread of monkeypox and protect the most at-risk communities through vaccination?

Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Minister for Health): I thank the member for Sydney for the question. I also thank him for all the work he does for the people in his electorate, and for various other communities. This is a particularly significant issue in parts of his electorate, but also more broadly across New South Wales. I think that monkeypox was first identified in 1958 or so and then in a youngster in the Republic of the Congo in 1970. It is still endemic in those parts of Africa and, I think, also in Nigeria. Unfortunately, recently monkeypox has spread outside of those African origins and into European countries and the Americas—United States of America and Canada. The index case was identified in the United Kingdom in May this year, so it hasn't been very long for the communities of the world to come to grips with it. Subsequently, it was also identified that before it got to Canada and the United States it was in Portugal and Spain.

NSW Health commenced targeted vaccination of high-risk groups against monkeypox on Monday 8 August. To date, 33 cases of monkeypox have been identified in New South Wales, two of which were acquired locally. So there has been local transmission as well. So far, an initial supply of 5,500 doses of the appropriate vaccine has been received from the Commonwealth Government. Given the relatively limited supply, the initial rollout of the vaccine will be prioritised, working with the community and NSW Health to determine that priority, obviously targeting those most at risk. People at highest risk for monkeypox are gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who have multiple sexual partners. NSW Health expects to receive somewhere between 24,500 and 30,000 doses in September and another 70,000 doses in early 2023. I thank the Federal Government and the Federal health Minister, Mark Butler. Today we had an exchange of communications to confirm that, at this stage, it would appear to be 24,500. But, from what NSW Health is telling me, there is the possibility that it might get up to 30,000 doses.

Our initial target is to get 22,000 people pre‑exposure prophylaxis vaccinated before WorldPride 2023. I am sure that we are all looking forward to that event. With monkeypox cases increasing internationally, it is expected that there will be further cases in New South Wales and local transmission may increase rapidly. [Extension of time]

NSW Health has been working with its community partners, including ACON, sexual health and infectious disease services, and doctors who have a special interest in HIV and sexual health to communicate the risks of monkeypox, promote prevention and support the vaccine rollout. Monkeypox and sexually transmitted disease [STI] prevention messages will be provided to all people receiving the vaccine, as I stress that the vaccine does not provide complete protection. It is important for people to protect themselves from other infections. Working with its partners, NSW Health will provide specific outreach to those people who it has identified as particularly vulnerable. Vaccines have been distributed in Sydney and on the far North Coast. The 12 New South Wales public health units will continue to investigate cases' sources of infection and trace at-risk contacts.

I stress to the people of New South Wales that if they think they might have the symptoms of monkeypox, please treat it seriously. Call ahead to your GP or local sexual health clinic. It is important to wear a mask when attending the clinic. Symptoms of concern include headache, fever, chills, sore throat, muscle and body aches, fatigue, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. The rash may initially be minimal and look like pimples in the buttock or genital region. If signs or symptoms develop, isolate immediately and seek care by calling ahead to make an appointment with your GP or sexual health clinic. Symptoms will usually develop up to two weeks from exposure but can take up to three weeks. If you are advised on return from overseas that you are a close contact, isolate immediately and call your GP or sexual health clinic. If you have questions about monkeypox do not hesitate to contact the Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624. I again thank the honourable member for his question and for all the work he does for his community in the electorate of Sydney.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!