Simian pox: Quebec refuses to vaccinate health personnel

Simian pox: Quebec refuses to vaccinate health personnel

Health personnel who screen and vaccinate the population at risk of contracting monkey pox, also known as “monkey pox”, will not be vaccinated against this infectious disease. And this, despite requests to this effect from the nursing community.

Faced with the growing number of cases of monkeypox, clinics leading screening and vaccination efforts have seen many patients pass by in recent days. At this time, however, the nurses leading these efforts do not have access to the vaccine they administer to others.

Dr. Réjean Thomas is an HIV specialist and founding president of the Clinique médicale l’Actuel. He works with the LGBTQ2+ community and takes care of patients infected with monkeypox.

He recently made a request to the Committee on Immunization of Quebec (CIQ) to make vaccination against monkeypox available to health care personnel. The response received was negative.

Me, my concern is if a nurse contracted the disease in this way, what impact would that have on the other nurses who are asked to do screenings without being vaccinated?

Dr Rejean Thomas

He fears that, in this case, some of the staff will be afraid to do screening or vaccination for monkeypox. This could then lead to a labor shortage within the clinic when the needs are already very great.

Not enough doses, but enough protective equipment

The doctor recalls that, during the vaccination against COVID-19, the nursing staff was among the first groups to receive the vaccine. Government logic wanted us to ensure that we did not lose personnel due to infections, and also that these people did not become vectors of transmission.

According to the various public health authorities, however, monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19.

“The Immunization Committee considers that with the means of protection that we take, we are not at risk. But I mean, when you have a nurse who does ten screenings a week, anyway…”, underlines Dr. Thomas. He adds that the people administering these doses are not a very large group.

This need to make vaccination available to health personnel is supported by the virology expert from the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), Alain Lamarre. At this stage, however, he would not expand vaccination to the rest of the population.

“I would include healthcare workers […] who are in regular contact with cases; they could also benefit from vaccination,” he says.

Sufficiently protected, says the INSPQ

The National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ), which governs the CIQ, considers for its part that the vaccination of health personnel is not essential. In interview with Subwayresearcher Caroline Quach-Thanh explains that nursing staff remain well protected against possible infections.

Given the scarcity of smallpox vaccine doses, and since healthcare personnel should always wear a procedural mask, gloves and gown when examining or taking samples from lesions, the risk that this healthcare personnel becoming infected with monkeypox is minimal.

Caroline Quach-Thanh, researcher at INSPQ

On its site, the INSPQ however recommends vaccination for laboratory personnel at risk of exposure to the virus.

“Workers in research laboratories at high risk of exposure to a Orthopoxvirus replicative (human smallpox, vaccinia virus, monkeypox) should be vaccinated with a smallpox vaccine.

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