Belgium to scale up monkeypox vaccination campaign

Belgium is going to expand the target group for the vaccination against the monkeypox virus. That's what Belgian Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced. The country can vaccinate 6,000 extra people because the vaccines can now also be injected into the skin instead of the muscle, allowing a lower dose to be used. In addition, our country will receive 1,500 vaccines on loan from the Netherlands. 

As of next week, the vaccines may be administered into the skin, instead of into the arm muscle. This is the result of a positive advice from the European Medicines Agency EMA and the Supreme Health Council. Because an intradermal injection requires a smaller dose, more people can be vaccinated with the same amount of vaccine. According to the Institute of Tropical Medicine, this makes 2.5 times more vaccinations possible: only one fifth of the normal dose is needed, but a repeat vaccination is required. 

In addition, Belgium receives 1,500 vaccines from the Netherlands. Belgium will give those doses back later, Vandenbroucke said. All in all, 6,000 extra people can be vaccinated. 

As a result, the country is expanding the priority target group of the vaccine to men who have sex with men and have had one sexually transmitted disease in the past year. Before, one had to have had at least 2 STDs in the past 12 months. Male and transgender sex workers, persons with severe immune disorders, laboratory staff handling virus cultures and women who are HIV positive or receiving preventive PrEP therapy are also eligible for vaccination. The HIV reference centres organising the vaccination will start inviting the additional target groups next week. 

According to health organization Sciensano, Belgium has 36 cases of the monkeypox virus every week, up from 47 the week before. Over 1,500 people have been vaccinated, out of a total of 3,220 vaccines. On Wednesday, a first death was linked to the monkeypox virus in Belgium. It concerned someone who had underlying health problems, no further information was given.



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