Switzerland urged to authorise monkeypox vaccine and treatments

Some vaccines approved for use against smallpox have showed protection against monkeypox. Keystone / Caroline Brehman

Pink Cross, the Swiss association for gay and bisexual men, has stepped up calls for testing, vaccines and treatment for monkeypox to be made available in Switzerland.

This content was published on August 11, 2022 - 11:59

No vaccine against monkeypox has been approved for use or procured by Swiss authorities.

“It is particularly important to us that the federal government recognises it as a priority. There is a problem with monkeypox that needs to be addressed right now,” Roman Heggli, director of Pink Cross, toldExternal link Swiss public broadcaster, SRF.

Since May, 361 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Switzerland. Most of the reported cases are among gay men. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with skin and mucous membranes, also during sexual activity.

On Wednesday Pink Cross launched a petition calling on Swiss authorities to declare the monkeypox outbreak a “special situation”, which gives the federal government certain powers in context of a public health outbreak. The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on July 23.

Dragging feet?

In the past few months authorities in several countries, including the United States, have authorised the use of certain vaccines, originally approved for smallpox, for use against monkeypox. Vaccines are currently in short supply given the small number of existing manufacturers.

None of the vaccines available on the international market is currently authorised in Switzerland. The Federal Office of Public Health said it planned to acquire a vaccine as soon as possible and to make it available to people who are particularly at risk.

According to its website, the public health office has been in touch with manufacturers of a vaccine and negotiations are underway. In a statement to SRF, the health office said that “due to various open questions, it is currently not possible to say definitively when and for which target group a vaccine can actually be made available in Switzerland”.

Pink Cross criticises the health office for dragging its feet. “Very little has happened in the past three months and there has been little progress, while the countries around us have long been vaccinating,” Heggli said.

Testing treatments

On Wednesday the Geneva University Hospitals said it was testing an antiviral treatment against monkeypox. It received 100 boxes of the antiviral Tecovirimat, which will allow 50 treatments, “administered to patients who suffer the most or are the most vulnerable”.

Tecovirimat is not authorised by the Swiss health office and therefore can be used only in research. Large-scale use of the treatment is not permitted.

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