It would be “absolutely homophobic” not to prioritise gay men for the monkepox vaccine, an adviser to the World Health Organisation has said. 

Usually monkeypox is contracted in Africa but in recent months there has been a surge of cases in Europe and the World Health Organisation declared it a global health emergency last month. 

99% of monkeypox patients are men and 95% of them identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men

With that in mind, the WHO has urged countries to prioritise them for the vaccine: 

“It would be absolutely homophobic if we weren’t to target the resources where we’re seeing the infections,” Andrew Seale, an adviser to the WHO, told Newstalk. 

“We have to be doing more of that and the communities obviously want to protect themselves and their loved ones but they don’t just interact within those communities. 

“People  interact with broader communities, so there’s an interest in making sure that those that they live and work and socialise with are protected.” 

The smallpox vaccine prevents infection against monkeypox in 85% of cases and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has approved a rollout among high risk groups

“The evidence suggests this approach to targeted pre-exposure prophylaxis may be highly efficient in controlling further spread of the disease,” he said. 

Testing

Mr Seale also recommended that Governments rapidly expand testing for the disease: 

“We really do need to focus more… on improving testing,” he added. 

“So at the moment the focus really is on swabbing active lesions and because of these new presentations that we’re seeing we need to find more efficient ways [of testing]. 

“Ultimately, self-testing would be fantastic.” 

The HSE advises that symptoms of monkeypox include

  • an itchy rash
  • a high temperature (38.5 degrees Celsius or higher)
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • back ache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion
  • a cough
  • a runny nose

Anyone who thinks they might have the disease should contact their GP or an STI clinic.

Main image: A Pride flag.