We need an ‘all of Government approach’ to monkeypox, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has said.

Senator Buttimer, who sits on the Seanad’s Labour panel, has written to the Minister for Health, asking for an action plan to be released.

He told Newstalk that as Ireland’s monkeypox cases slowly rise, it’s important to increase our supplies of vaccine so that the country is ready for what may come.

“It is important that we don’t just allow this to fester and take hold, that we learn from COVID-19, and that we ensure that we don’t stigmatise, that we don’t categorise or, if you like, make it about one group of people.”

“It’s about a whole-of-government approach.”

97 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in Ireland so far.

Vaccination supply

The Social Democrats have raised concerns that the Government is treating the situation with a “lack of urgency” and Stephen O’Hare of HIV Ireland has warned that the nation currently does not have the stock needed for a vaccination rollout:

“In [a] discussion with the minister last week, the need to procure more vaccines was very much centre to that discussion,” Mr O’Hare told Moncreiff. 

“We will need to do that as time goes on to ensure that we have enough stock to meet demand and that’s something the department is looking at right now.”

He called on the government to give a “concrete timeframe” for when additonal vaccinations will be bought and made available.

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

Gay men most at risk

Most people who contract monkeypox are gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

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 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.