British scientists are urging the government to bring in routine vaccines for those most at risk from monkeypox and gonorrhoea, with an inoculation programme for the latter being a world first.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it is advising Rishi Sunak that both programmes should be offered on an opportunistic basis to those most in need.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chair of the JCVI, stated that introducing a vaccination programme to prevent gonorrhoea in England “would be a world first and should significantly help to reduce levels of gonorrhoea, which are currently at a record high”.
He added: “In addition, we are advising setting up a routine targeted mpox [monkeypox] offer – to prevent a repeat of the large outbreak we saw in early 2022. Both vaccinations should be offered to those at highest risk.”
The JCVI also advised that their recommended vaccination programme against gonorrhoea should primarily target gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, who have the highest rates of the disease.
It comes as sexually transmitted infection (STI) figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that 2022 saw gonorrhoea diagnoses increase by 50.3% from 2021, with 82,592 cases.
And in March, it was reported the number of gonorrhoea cases in the UK last year rose by more than a fifth on pre-pandemic levels.
Greg Fell, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, told Sky News: “The recent rise in sexually transmitting infections such as gonorrhoea is very concerning and today’s recommendation from the JCVI is undoubtedly a sensible course of action.
“The rise in numbers is however, in part, a result of more people visiting clinics and other diagnostic services to be tested and, as a result of this increase, the demand on sexual health services has never been higher.
“As we said in June, we are concerned that the current levels of funding for sexual health services, which are provided for in England by the Public Health Grant, cannot meet this increase in demand.
“Any new vaccination programme would therefore need to be planned with this in mind and backed with adequate funding and resources so that people can receive the vaccines in a timely and dignified way that doesn’t take away from existing services.”