Quebec to start vaccinating against monkeypox as cases climb to 25

Quebec will start vaccinating some people with a smallpox vaccine, in order to combat the spread of monkeypox in the Montreal area.

Quebec’s public health director Dr. Luc Boileau said Thursday that 25 cases of monkeypox have now been confirmed in the province. Fourteen of them are in the city of Montreal, though all cases are tied to the greater Montreal area.

About 20 to 30 more cases are also under investigation, Boileau said.

Boileau underlined that the spread of monkeypox was “a serious situation,” but said it is not sweeping through the population like COVID-19, for example. 

“We aren’t expecting a rapid, huge number of cases,” he explained. “That’s why we think it can be eradicated.”

To that end, Boileau said that the smallpox vaccine — which hasn’t been routinely offered in Canada for decades — will be offered to those at high risk of contracting the disease, such as those who have been in contact with confirmed cases.

Boileau said the province has access to hundreds of doses at the ready, but vaccination will only occur after a recommendation from public health. It will not be open to the general public.

Dr. Caroline Quach, the president of Quebec’s immunization committee, said that vaccination within four days of contact had a “very good” chance of preventing the disease. 

The goal will be to vaccinate targeted individuals within that four days, but vaccination can be offered up to 14 days after, she said.

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Currently, the “vast majority” of cases are adult men who have had sexual relations with men, Boileau said. There is one case affecting a minor, Boileau specified, who has been to school since exposure.

But the virus needs close and prolonged contact to spread, Quach said, “so it’s not like an entire classroom would suddenly be affected,” like it would with more transmissible diseases like the coronavirus.

Boileau specified the government is “not in a community alert situation” when it comes to monkeypox.

Montreal’s medical officer responsible for health emergencies and infectious diseases, Dr. Geneviève Bergeron, added that contact tracing and isolation are also being used to prevent the spread.

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