Monkeypox vaccines will arrive in Western Australia within days, after the state registered the first case of the disease in a traveler returning from abroad.
Most important points:
- Monkeypox vaccines will arrive in WA in a week
- Experts say risk of monkeypox outbreak in WA is low
- The number of active COVID cases in the state continues to fall
About 1,300 doses will be made available over the next week, with distribution concentrated in priority groups.
“Sexual health clinics are the likely place where that will happen,” said Paul Armstrong, WA’s deputy health officer.
Mr. Armstrong said a vaccination priority list is still being developed but will likely target people at higher risk of infection and immunocompromised groups.
“It’s a vaccine that’s very scarce around the world…there’s only a very small amount, so we have to be very sensible in how we prioritize,” he said.
The federal government announced Thursday that it had secured nearly half a million third-generation monkeypox vaccines.
More portions of those vaccines will arrive in WA in September and next year.
‘Low risk’ of getting out of hand
Both experts and authorities say monkeypox is unlikely to get out of hand in WA due to the low risk of transmission.
“In Western Australia, our health advice is that it is very, very low risk,” Prime Minister Mark McGowan said.
Health authorities say the single recorded case of WA is currently isolated and contact tracing is largely complete.
The disease spreads through close physical contact and bodily fluids, making it much less likely to spread than illnesses like COVID and the flu, said infectious disease expert Dr. Paul Griffin.
“We don’t necessarily have to worry about this… we ask people to isolate, and that’s enough to prevent their chances of further broadcasting,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“The most important thing again is that awareness. We need to make the general public aware of the types of symptoms and the risk factors.”
The first symptoms of monkey pox are fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, and a rash that may look like pimples or blisters.
About 60 cases have been discovered in Australia.
Good news from the COVID front: researchers
As WA prepares for the prospect of a new illness, experts said the state’s COVID caseload is likely to continue to decline in the coming weeks.
Researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute have generated a simulation tool to map COVID outbreaks and said the number of WA cases would continue to fall.
“The number of daily cases here in WA has been steadily declining over the past two weeks…our model predicts that trend will continue through the end of August,” Dr. Ewan Cameron to ABC Radio Perth.
“Our best guess for that is that it’s the combination of the immunity from our high vaccination coverage, with some level of immunity gained from previous infections.
“We don’t think, at least with BA.4 and BA.5 variants, they’re not going to give us much more kick than what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks.”
WA’s health minister says she is doubtful that the winter wave that has just passed will be WA’s last brush with COVID.
“I suspect there will be another wave someday. What that is and what that looks like, we don’t know,” said Amber-Jade Sanderson.
WA’s daily infections fluctuate between 3,000 and 4,000, but Dr. Cameron said the modeling may have seen the number of cases drop below 2,000 by the end of August.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID has fallen from the mid-400s, with 351 hospitalized cases, and the modeling suggested the decline would likely continue, eventually settling in the high range of 200.
dr. However, Cameron admitted that the modeling failed to take into account a number of unknowns, including the potential of new variants and the impact of voluntarily wearing masks.
“It’s very difficult to estimate exactly what the impact of that is, so that would be one of the uncertainties in the model,” he said.
The researchers were unable to fully solve the puzzle of hospital cases that were far out of proportion to the number of cases.
According to Dr. Cameron, there was not much evidence for underreporting as the reason.
“We think there is much more transmission among older residents here who are most susceptible to the virus and most likely to end up in the hospital,” he said.