Smallpox vaccination could protect older adults from monkeypox: DAK

File Photo of Dr Nisar ul Hassan
File Photo of Dr Nisar ul Hassan

Srinagar, Aug 8: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Monday said older adults who were vaccinated against smallpox many decades before could be protected from monkeypox.

“People who received smallpox vaccination prior to its discontinuation in 1980 might still have some protection against the related monkeypox virus,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan. Dr Hassan said research has found that those who have been vaccinated against smallpox decades ago persist with a very high level of antibodies and the ability to neutralize the virus.

Routine smallpox vaccination stopped in 1980 after the disease was eradicated globally. “This means that any individual under the age of 42 certainly did not receive the smallpox vaccine,” he said adding “the current monkeypox outbreak is affecting mostly younger people.” The DAK President said vaccination against smallpox was found through several observational studies to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox infection. US FDA has approved a smallpox vaccine, Jynneos manufactured by a Danish company Bavarian Nordic for the prevention of monkeypox in people who are 18 years and older. “At the moment, the risk posed by monkeypox to the general public isn’t high enough to warrant mass vaccination,” he said.

“Countries including Canada, UK and US have begun the strategy of ring vaccination to halt the spread of the virus. Ring vaccination means vaccinating close contacts of infected individuals,” said Dr Nisar.

“If you are exposed to the virus, you should ideally get the vaccine within 4 days of exposure to prevent the onset of disease. Vaccine is also needed as pre-exposure prophylaxis for those healthcare workers dealing with monkeypox cases and lab personnel performing monkeypox testing,” he said.

“While the number of cases in India does not justify the need for ring vaccination, it might be a good idea to get in line for the available vaccines,” he added.

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