People in the Montreal area at high risk of contracting monkeypox will be given the smallpox vaccine, Quebec health officials announced Thursday. The province has 25 confirmed cases of monkeypox, all connected to the Montreal region, CBC reports. Another 20 to 30 potential cases are being investigated. "We aren't expecting a rapid, huge number of cases," said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's public health director. "That's why we think it can be eradicated." Boileau called the outbreak serious but said the disease isn't running through the population the way COVID-19 has.
Vaccinations will not be available to everyone. They'll require a recommendation from the public health agency, starting with people who have had contact with those who have confirmed monkeypox cases. Boileau said the "vast majority" of cases so far are adult men who had sex with men. The virus requires close, prolonged contact with an infected person to spread, said Caroline Quach, head of Quebec's immunization committee, per the Montreal Gazette. "So it's not like an entire classroom would suddenly be affected," she said, which could happen with the coronavirus. The monkeypox virus also be transmitted through droplets, she said.
The vaccination can help when administered up to 14 days after contact, Quach said, though within four days is ideal. As with COVID-19, contact tracing and isolation are among the strategies being used to prevent the spread. The virus is related to the one that causes smallpox, which is why the existing vaccine can be effective in at least keeping cases from becoming severe. "This is a bit concerning," said an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Center about confirmed cases going from none to 25 in a week. "For a disease that we have never seen before in Canada, that seems to be a relatively big increase." (At least three US states have confirmed or suspected cases.)