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Israel was a world leader in combating COVID-19 with vaccines, now they’re getting ready for monkeypox

Thousands of tiny vials of a rare and valuable vaccine are about to be sent to health clinics across Israel for the country’s first blitz to control an outbreak of monkeypox.

Despite having recorded only 125 cases of disease, Israeli health authorities have taken the unusual approach of securing 10,000 monkeypox vaccines for its residents.

They have also expressed a desire to get more supplies in the future.

Gal Wagner — an LGBT medical specialist in Tel Aviv — said he had been “flooded with requests” for the vaccine since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global emergency, the agency’s highest level of warning.

“People are afraid of the virus and they really want to protect themselves,” Dr Wagner said.

“When we started talking about having vaccination in Israel and the Ministry of Health declared they had bought vaccinations for Israel, we saw many, many patients who were really happy and wanted to get the vaccination right away.”

Israel’s swift response to monkeypox is the second time in recent years that the nation has quickly mobilized against a health threat.

‘There is simply no room for complacency’

Dr Wagner’s clinic will be among the first to offer the vaccine to high-risk patients in Israel, including men born after 1980 who have HIV, men on HIV pre-exposure meds or men who have contracted a sexually transmitted disease this year.

Dr Gal Wagner, an LGBT medical specialist in Tel Aviv, says many of his patients are relieved Israel is moving quickly on monkeypox. (ABC News: Haidar Jones)

Monkeypox — which has been found in more than 70 countries — is not a sexually transmitted disease.

However, this global outbreak has, so far, mostly been detected in the sexual networks of men who have sex with other men.

The WHO has cautioned that no-one should assume the outbreak will remain only within this community.

“There is simply no room for complacency … with its fast-moving outbreak that — with every hour, day and week — is extending its reach into previously unaffected areas,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Henri P Kluge, said.

The WHO said the illness — which belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox — is spread through close contact with an infected person.

A plastic tube with a red lid, with a sticker reading
A monkeypox infection can be confirmed by testing a swab of blister fluid or scabs from the skin rash.(ABC News: Haidar Jones)

It can also be transmitted through infected particles on items such as bedding or towels.

Those infected with monkeypox usually come down with a fever and body aches before a blistery rash appears on their body.

While it can be quite painful, the vast majority of patients make a full recovery.

Israel wants to be a world leader in fighting infectious diseases

Going hard and fast on vaccination is a technique Israel relied upon when COVID-19 emerged.

Early on in the pandemic, the government cut a deal with Pfizer to obtain supplies of the vaccine in exchange for giving the pharmaceutical company access to Israeli’s personal health data.

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