Monkeypox vaccines will become available for certain high-risk groups in Hong Kong from early October, the government announced on Wednesday, after the city confirmed its first monkeypox infection earlier this month.

The voluntary vaccination programme will be open to individuals who engage in “high risk sexual practices,” such as having multiple sexual partners, sex workers and those who had a sexually transmitted infection in the past year; healthcare workers who look after monkeypox patients; laboratory staff working with viruses that can be transmitted between animal species and humans; and animal care personnel who may be exposed to animals infected with monkeypox.

A vial of the monkeypox vaccine with one dose. Photo: Khaled Mostafa, via World Health Organization.

The programme will commence on October 5, with bookings opening two days before, the Department of Health said in a press statement on Wednesday. Reservations can be made by email or by phone.

Six Social Hygiene Service Clinics across Hong Kong will offer vaccinations for clients with high risk sexual practices. Jabs will also be available at the Integrated Treatment Centre in Kowloon Bay and the Hospital Authority’s special medical clinics at Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret hospitals.

Other high risk groups can go to two designated centres in Yau Ma Tei and Wan Chai.

Clinics providing monkeypox vaccines – Click to expand

  • Wan Chai Male Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Wan Chai Female Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Yau Ma Tei Male Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Yung Fung Shee Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Fanling Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Tuen Mun Social Hygiene Clinic
  • Integrated Treatment Centre (Kowloon Bay)
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital Special Medical Clinic
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Special Medical Clinic
  • Yau Ma Tei Jockey Club Polyclinic
  • Tang Chi Ngong Specialist Clinic

Authorities meanwhile will provide the monkeypox jabs for healthcare and laboratory workers with high risk of exposure as early as September 26. They will be available at Hospital Authority staff clinics and selected clinics under the Department of Health.

Medical and health services sector lawmaker David Lam told HKFP that although the current risk of a local monkeypox outbreak remained low, there was a need for the targeted vaccine programme.

Lam said potential relaxation of Covid-related border restrictions would likely increase the risk of importation and local transmission of the disease, but people need not worry too much because “this episode [of monkeypox] is quite unusual” in that it appeared to be “localised” in high-risk groups, which meant a targeted vaccination programme was appropriate.

Lam said it could be difficult to identify those in need of the vaccine due to privacy issues, so authorities needed to better promote the need to get vaccinated.

“It is much better to tell them the risks and let them come forward,” Lam said.

Vaccine procurement

The government said it has procured a third-generation vaccine recommended by an expert panel and that the first shipment had already arrived in Hong Kong. People are required to receive two doses of the monkeypox jab, while those who have received the smallpox vaccine will only need one dose.

The amount authorities purchased is expected to be sufficient to inoculate 120,000 people under the programme.

Monkeypox

A viral disease that is endemic in West and Central African countries, Monkeypox has spread globally since the first case of the outbreak was identified in the UK in May. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 53,000 cases identified this year in more than 100 countries, as well as a handful of deaths.

Monkeypox virus. File photo: US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, via Wikicommons.

Symptoms include a rash – often near the genitals – fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches and a sore throat, which develop within three weeks of exposure to the virus. The illness generally lasts for two to four weeks.

The virus is transmitted by being in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox. Globally, men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current outbreak, but anyone can be infected.

Existing vaccines and treatments, including antiviral drugs and the smallpox jab, can be used to treat and prevent the illness, though it is usually mild and patients often recover without treatment.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.