House debates

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Questions without Notice


2:19 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. How will the government's procurement of the new third-generation monkeypox vaccine protect Australians from the spread of monkeypox?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Macnamara for his question. I know he's been closely engaged with his community about the impact of the global outbreak of monkeypox here in Australia, and he's closely engaged with me as well.

It's only been 13 weeks since the first case of monkeypox outside the endemic countries in Africa, which have experienced that virus for many years, was notified in the UK. In that time more than 25,000 cases have been reported across 76 different countries outside of Africa, countries that have not experienced monkeypox before. More than 6,000 cases have been reported in the US, almost 3,000 in the UK and more than 4,000 in Spain.

This is a self-limiting illness that is usually mild to moderate, but over the past week or so we have started to see reports of deaths not only in the endemic African countries. There were also four deaths in countries that have not experienced monkeypox before. Since the first case was reported here in Australia on 19 May, 58 cases have been reported in Australia. On the day after that first report, 20 May, the Department of Health and Aged Care began negotiations with Bavarian Nordic, the company that manufactures the new third-generation vaccine for monkeypox. Since that time, there have been 27 meetings with that company in a very competitive, highly constrained global market, and I'm pleased to announce that we have secured the supply of 450,000 doses of this new state-of-the-art vaccine for Australia. That will provide not just pre-exposure protection, as a vaccine would be expected to do, but also post-exposure treatment for people who have contracted the virus.

We'll be rolling out that vaccine through state and territory clinics, and I thank the states and territories for their very constructive engagement over recent weeks. We've also been working over recent weeks to increase clinical awareness and clinical capability to identify, isolate and treat cases as quickly as possible.

I want to mention community engagement, though, because the member for Macamara has been very focused on this. It's important to say that any person can contract monkeypox, but across the world it has particularly affected gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, so we've been closely engaged with organisations like AFAO, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, and the clinicians at ASHM, leveraging their networks and the capability that they've built up over the last four decades to make sure that communities across Australia have maximum awareness and are able to take up the opportunities that we've been able to secure over the course of this week.