Although vaccinated people can still get sick in a minority of cases, there is no boost. Nevertheless, since this month the GGD has again been offering vaccinations against mpox, the non-stigmatizing name that the world health organization WHO gave to the disease caused by the monkeypox virus (monkeypox in English) causes.
Unvaccinated men who have sex with many other men and transgender people with many changing contacts are eligible for vaccination. They can make an appointment at the GGD. Partially vaccinated persons are also welcome.
A year ago, mpox spread worldwide. “Anyone can get the disease, but the infections occurred almost exclusively in the group of men who have sex with men (MSM), although it was not clear at the time whether it would stop there.
About 1250 people in the Netherlands received mpox, half of whom lived in Amsterdam. The symptoms are blisters, often near the pubic area, fever, itching and fatigue. The pain can be very severe at times.
Hardly any new infections
It has now been found that mpox poses no threat to the general population. The outbreak has also subsided in the MSM population; few more patients are reported. Last year, the virus was detected in hundreds of Dutch men in some weeks. No patients have been reported in Amsterdam since the turn of the year, and four in the rest of the Netherlands.
To contain mpox, the GGD last year offered vaccinations to people with an increased risk of mpox. Although there was the necessary panic at the time and the GGD was criticized for the length of time it took to start the vaccination campaign, only half of the invitees came to get the vaccination. In the Netherlands, approximately 30,000 men were partially and 12,000 men fully vaccinated.
“I found the turnout disappointing,” says Henry de Vries, dermatologist at the GGD and Amsterdam UMC. “We had estimated that about 80 percent would show up.”
As a possible reason for the low turnout, De Vries points to the reduced panic when it turned out that mpox in the Western world was much less deadly than studies in Africa showed. “The mortality in those studies was between 2 and 10 percent, but it turned out to be 0.04 percent or less in the West.”
The vaccine does not completely protect against infection, serious illness is prevented in about 80 percent of cases. The duration of protection (immunity) is not yet fully known, partly because infections can occur unnoticed. According to De Vries, the exact situation is still being investigated.
A past mpox infection does not fully protect against reinfection, although it is likely that the chance will decrease. “In addition, the risk of serious illness decreases with a reinfection, just like with covid,” says De Vries, who also participates in the so-called expert consultation on mpox of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “Even with an infection after vaccination, the burden of disease is usually milder.”
Partly for this reason, the GGD did not start a booster campaign for men who were fully vaccinated last year. “We are now focusing on MSM men and transgender people who have not yet been vaccinated or who have been partially vaccinated,” says De Vries. “Especially for that group, mpox can be annoying and painful.”
It is estimated that this involves several thousand Amsterdammers. So far this month 111 injections have been made.
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