Canadians who are at high risk of contracting monkeypox — not just those who have been infected — should get a vaccine, according to new guidance from the national body that provides advice to government on vaccines.
After reviewing the current status of the monkeypox outbreak in Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) came out with new guidelines Friday saying anyone with a high risk of exposure to a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox, or someone who has visited a setting where transmission of the virus is happening, should receive one dose of the Imvamune vaccine.
NACI also said vaccines may be offered to those who are immunocompromised, pregnant or lactating, or children and youth, if they are at a higher risk of exposure.
Imvamune, normally used to treat smallpox, has been approved by Health Canada to treat monkeypox.
Ideally, those who have been exposed to this virus should receive their vaccine within four days of exposure, said Canada’s chief health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, during a briefing Friday in Ottawa.
“The NACI recommendation is for one dose be offered to someone who knows that they’ve been in contact with a case or they’ve been in a high-risk exposure settings,” she said.
The recommendations state a second dose should only be offered in limited circumstances.
Local public health authorities are working with businesses and communities where outbreaks are happening in Canada to identify places where exposures may have occurred, and they are contacting people who may have been exposed to the virus in these locations, Tam said.
Given the scope of the outbreaks so far, mass vaccination against monkeypox is not necessary at this time, she added.
“For the general population, the risk at the present time is low.”
This includes 98 cases in Quebec, nine in Ontario, four in Alberta and one in British Columbia, with other suspected cases being investigated.
Monkeypox mainly spreads from close physical contact, including intimate sexual contact, or exposure to scabs or bodily fluids or even contaminated bed linens.
Most of the cases in Canada are currently among men who have had sexual contact with other men, though the virus can spread to anyone who has had contact with an infected person, Tam said.
Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is working with vaccine manufacturers to ensure a sufficient supply of the Imvamune vaccine moving forward.
Canada “does not have an unlimited supply” of this vaccine, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said in French during the briefing Friday.
“But with a good strategic approach, with a prudent approach, we believe it is possible to contain the outbreak.”
— with files from The Canadian Press.