Sexual health experts: NZ must take action on monkeypox now

Some of New Zealand’s most prominent sexual health services have delivered a letter to the Prime Minister, urging the Government to take steps to prevent monkeypox becoming endemic.

File picture.

Three cases of the virus have now been confirmed in New Zealand.

However, the Ministry of Health says there is no evidence of community transmission, and the risk of transmission is considered low.

The virus can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with lesions as well as through droplets, bodily fluids and saliva. 

Current outbreaks overseas have been disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men, with areas like New York starting preemptive vaccination campaigns for these groups.

READ MORE: Monkeypox state of emergency declared in California

The five-page document put together by the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, the New Zealand Sexual Health Society and Associate Professor Peter Saxton (University of Auckland) says the country has a rapidly closing window to avoid serious public health consequences.

The letter says the Government should develop a vaccine delivery plan, that prioritises gay and bisexual men who are at risk of contracting the virus. These vaccines would be offered preemptively.

It also calls for urgent funding for sexual health clinics, so they can screen for the virus, and help treat those who test positive.

Government responds

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says Pharmac is still working to secure vaccines.

“It’s a very competitive market whenever these outbreaks happen of a disease where there haven’t been large numbers of that disease before, so global supply has to ramp up.”

She also said she appreciates the community is anxious about the outbreak.

“We’ve developed tests in New Zealand, there were none before for monkeypox, and we’re working hard with Pharmac to make sure treatments and vaccines are sourced as well,” she said.