The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended vaccination programmes for prevention of both gonorrhoea and mpox.
In advice published last week, the committee said both programmes should be offered through specialist sexual health services to those at greatest risk of infection.
For gonorrhoea, the JCVI recommended a targeted programme using the 4CMenB vaccine, which is currently used in the routine childhood programme to prevent meningitis and septicaemia.
While for mpox – previously known as monkeypox – the committee advised implementing a routine programme which would help to prevent outbreaks.
Both programmes should focus on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who are at highest risk, identified by specialist services that have experience in assessing patients at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The MenB vaccine’s effectiveness against gonorrhoea is between 32.7% and 42%, but the JCVI has advised that the benefit of a vaccination programme would be at community level where there would be a ‘significant reduction’ in overall cases.
This advice does not mean new programmes will be implemented – the Government will now consider the committee’s advice before taking any decisions.
The UK experienced an outbreak of mpox last year with cases primarily identified among GBMSM, which led to health officials recommending a vaccine for this cohort of patients.
The committee said: ‘A pre-emptive vaccine strategy could prevent outbreaks occurring and would also allow vaccines to be offered routinely through sexual health services on an ongoing basis, as opposed to an outbreak response which had caused a significant disruption in sexual health services, impacting on their ability to continue with routine work.
‘The public health response costs which were associated with the outbreak were also saved, making a pre-emptive vaccination strategy the preferred approach.’
Head of sexually transmitted infections at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Katy Sinka said that although mpox case numbers across England ‘remain very low’ we should not be ‘complacent’.
‘Any routine vaccination offer to those at highest risk of infection will help ensure we remain on top of the disease and prevent any major future outbreaks,’ she added.
Chair of the JCVI Professor Andrew Pollard said: ‘Introducing a MenB 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.’
The committee has also just recommended that a universal chickenpox vaccination programme is included in the routine childhood schedule.