Mpox: Enough vaccine vials obtained for up to 20,000 at-risk people in New Zealand

Ayesha Verrall.
Ayesha Verrall. Photo credit: Newshub.

Medical practitioners will be able to prescribe an mpox vaccine for eligible at-risk people from 16 January.

Although the vaccine has not yet been approved by medicines regulator Medsafe, 5000 vials of the vaccine had been obtained, enough for up to 20,000 people.

Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in statement on Monday the vaccine may be prescribed by a medical practitioner after a consultation, and provided in line with section 29 of the Medicines Act.

"The consultation is needed as this vaccine has not yet been approved by Medsafe," Verrall said.

"The company responsible for the vaccine is expected to apply to Medsafe shortly."

Those initially eligible for the vaccine will include:

  • close physical contacts of people infected with mpox, such as sexual partners and people who live in the same household

  • gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who have multiple sexual partners, and trans and cisgender women who are in intimate relationships with these eligible men

  • those recommended to have the vaccine by medical specialists.

For close contacts of infected people, taking the vaccine within four days of exposure would "provide the highest chance of avoiding the disease".

From 10 January, people can complete an initial assessment to check if they are at risk of mpox or by ringing Healthline on 0800 116 672 between 8am and 8pm.

Initially, the mpox consultation service is set to prioritise a first dose for the eligible population, with the second dose recommended after a minimum 28-day interval and up to two years.

A further supply of additional vaccines is expected to arrive in Aotearoa later this year.

There have been 41 reported cases of mpox in New Zealand as of 9 January, but Verrall said the virus did not get a foothold in New Zealand in 2022 like it did in other countries.

She attributed that to the "great collaboration" of community organisations, public health teams, and people taking precautions.

Anyone with any concerns about mpox should seek advice from the place they normally receive health advice, which could be their GP, sexual health clinic or Healthline on 0800 116 672.