Three NHS sites are set to begin offering eligible patients smaller doses of monkeypox vaccine, amid global shortages of the jab. This is following expert advice from UK Health Security Agency (“UKHSA”) who have stated that reduced shots are just as effective and will mean more people are protected. As a result, the fractional dosing approach has been authorised in the UK, as well as the US and the EU.
What is the fractional dosing approach?
The standard and traditional dose of a regular vaccination is usually 0.5ml. However, studies have suggested that a fifth of the volume of a regular dose, 0.1ml, will still give good protection. This is in response to more than 3,000 people having been diagnosed with monkeypox in the UK since the epidemic began in May. The majority of cases have been among gay and bisexual men, however, anybody who comes into close contact with someone who has monkeypox could potentially contract the virus. Therefore vaccination is crucial and can help prevent new cases. According to UKHSA, fractional dosing could maximise the number of doses that can be currently administered, without compromising protection. The three NHS sites which will begin offering smaller doses of the monkeypox vaccine are clinics in Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust and Locala Health and Wellbeing in Greater Manchester.
Why are the NHS doing this?
UK officials say more than 33,000 regular dose shots have been given to some of those at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. But many more, who could benefit from being vaccinated, have not yet been immunised – and stocks of the vaccine are ultimately running low due to a global shortage. Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA, said:
“Adopting this tried-and-tested technique will help to maximise the reach of our remaining stock, including the 100,000 doses due to arrive in the country next month – potentially enabling us to offer protection for many more thousands of people. We will continue to remain agile in our response to the monkeypox outbreak and will adapt our approach as new science and advice becomes available.”
Dr Claire Dewsnap, President of the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV, said:
“If acceptable, this would offer us the opportunity to roll out vaccine to those eligible much faster, and would address the issues of short supply of vaccine across the world.”