Smallpox vaccines brought in as first Scottish monkeypox case is confirmed

Public Health Scotland said they have obtained a number of shots of the smallpox vaccine which is also effective against monkeypox.

23 May 2022

A “small number” of smallpox vaccine shots, effective against monkeypox, have been stockpiled in Scotland, public health officials have confirmed.

The UK Government has ordered in several thousand doses of the jab that is understood to be about 85% effective against monkeypox.

Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science and medical director at Public Health Scotland (PHS), said a small number of shots of the vaccine, had been sent to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

It follows news that the first confirmed case of the virus was identified in Scotland on Monday.

Dr Phin said: “The UK has stockpiles we can draw from and, in light of the case that we are investigating, we have requested a small stock of vaccine to be based in Edinburgh and in Glasgow so that they are available for Scotland.

“Those are the two places we tend to bring any stockpile simply because they have large populations and are acceptable for most of Scotland.

“We requested a small number of vaccines while we identify a site where we can store a larger number.

“We’ve ordered more than sufficient for the current case and this should give us a buffer should we get any cases in the next day or two.”

UK monkeypox cases
The disease leads to sores, blisters and scabs on the skin (PA)

Dr Phin emphasised that public health officials are able to obtain vaccines and anti-viral medicines at short notice, should they be needed.

He added: “The service we have with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is that we can draw on any vaccine should we need it at 12 hours’ notice.

“The UK Government are ordering several thousand doses of the vaccine in.

“In a typical outbreak you may have between 10 and 20 cases. That’s the sort of ballpark figure we’re looking at.”

He also confirmed that the virus was “not Covid two” and added: “I don’t think this is Covid two, in fact, I’m sure this is not Covid two.

“There are a number of striking differences between this and Covid. We’ve got a longer incubation period. We’ve got an effective vaccine and we’ve got effective medication. There is not what we understand to be an asymptomatic phase so in other words, if you’ve got symptoms, that’s when you’re infectious.”

Public Health Scotland were not able to share details about the first case, but confirmed the patient was being treated at an infectious diseases unit and they had not travelled abroad recently.

PHS stressed a common sense approach was needed to keep the virus contained.

Dr Phin said: “What we’re trying to do is early identification and vaccination of contacts. The vaccination will stop people, if it’s given early enough, going on to develop the condition.

“A lot of it is common sense: washing your hands, the usual things. I’m pretty confident we are not dealing with another Covid issue.”

Dr Phin described the risk to the public as low, but warned anyone with “blister-like sores” on their body to seek medical attention.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced 20 people in England had been confirmed to have the virus, with more expected.

Dr Phin said: “Public Health Scotland is aware of an individual in Scotland who is confirmed to have monkeypox.

“The affected individual is being managed and treated in line with nationally agreed protocols and guidance.

“We have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with such cases of infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.

“We are working with NHS Boards and wider partners in Scotland and the UK to investigate the source of this infection.

“Close contacts of the case are being identified and provided with health information and advice. This may include the offer of vaccination.”

Initial symptoms of the virus include fever or high temperature; head, muscle and back ache; swollen lymph nodes; chills and exhaustion.

A blister-like rash or small number of blister-like sores can also develop, starting on the face but spreading across the body.

The rash changes throughout the infection, finally forming a scab which falls off within weeks.

Those with the virus are infectious between the time that symptoms start and when the last scab falls off, Public Health Scotland said.

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