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Israel prepares for monkeypox, orders additional 5,000 vaccine doses

Monkeypox has arrived in Israel as 105 males have tested positive for the virus so far

Head of the Institute of Microbiology of the German Armed Forces Roman Woelfel works in his laboratory in Munich, May 20, 2022, after Germany detected its first case of monkeypox. (Photo: REUTERS/Christine Uyanik)

Israel is bracing for monkeypox after 105 males tested positive for the virus as of Saturday and the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on Friday. 

After the WHO announcement, Israel requested an additional 5,000 doses of the Danish biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic vaccine.

This comes days after the European Union’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), approved the labeling of the Nordic vaccine as being effective against the virus. Previously that vaccine was only approved in the EU for the treatment of smallpox.

Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz spoke with Bavarian Nordic’s CEO Chaplin and asked to more than double the previously agreed upon shipment of 2,000. Horowitz added that, in addition to purchasing vaccines, the Health Ministry is taking measures to “share information to prevent infection and setting up testing labs.”

The ministry also announced that an additional 5,000 doses of the vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Israel in the near future.

The ministry encouraged anyone who is experiencing symptoms or has come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the monkeypox virus to see their doctor and get tested for the virus.  

Since the virus is mostly transmitted between men who have sex with other men (MSM), the vaccine in Israel will first be distributed to those in this demographic who are HIV-positive, are taking HIV-preventing drugs or who recently tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. 

The project for vaccine distribution is under the direction of Dr. Tal Brosh, coordinator of Israel’s Epidemic Management Team and chair of its deliberations on the national monkeypox response. 

The first case of monkeypox in Israel was reported in May in a man who returned from abroad. The communal spread was first detected last month. The incidence of the virus has begun to cause concern in the health community since the virus is contagious and, although symptoms are generally mild, can cause serious illness. 

Brosh, who heads the infectious disease department at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, stressed that monkeypox can also be transmitted through casual contact and that, if the virus spreads, it could have a devastating impact on the immunocompromised and pregnant women.

The criteria for vaccine distribution will be relaxed after the initial rollout, but will still prioritize MSM, he said.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid mentioned the issue in the weekly Cabinet meeting. 

“The Ministry of Health, led by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, has been prepared for weeks to deal with the virus and has taken steps to locate patients, prevent infection and treat patients,” he said.

He said that Israel is in contact with health authorities in countries throughout the world and is closely monitoring the situation. He also mentioned coronavirus cases are receding and currently 370 people are hospitalized in serious condition in Israel.

Read more: MONKEYPOX

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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