A nurse holds a vial containing the monkeypox vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by the Mecklenburg County Public Health Department in Charlotte, North Carolina, US, on Aug 20, 2022. (NELL REDMOND / AP)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s health authorities announced on Wednesday that a monkeypox vaccination program for high-risk people will begin on Oct 5, stressing that people can receive the jab on a voluntary basis.

The high-risk group includes individuals with high-risk sexual practices such as multiple sexual partners, sex workers and people with a past history of sexually transmitted infections within the past 12 months, the Department of Heath said in a press release.

It also covers healthcare workers responsible for caring for patients with confirmed monkeypox, laboratory personnel working with zoonotic pox viruses and animal care personnel who are at a higher risk of exposure due to working with animals in Hong Kong.

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Opportunistic vaccination will be provided to clients with high-risk sexual practices at the department’s six Social Hygiene Service Clinics (SocHSs), according to the press release.

Based on the administration method suggested by the committees and the current vaccine procurement, about 120,000 people can receive vaccination

They include Wan Chai Male SocHS, Wan Chai Female SocHS, Yau Ma Tei Male SocHS, Yung Fung Shee SocHS, Fanling SocHS and Tuen Mun SocHS.

Such vaccination service will also be provided to clients at the department’s Integrated Treatment Centre in Kowloon Bay as well as Special Medical Clinics at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital.

Regarding healthcare workers and laboratory personnel, the Hospital Authority (HA) and the department will provide the jab for their staff who are at an elevated risk of exposure starting Sept 26 at HA staff clinics and the department’s selected clinics.

For other high-risk target groups including those who are not clients of the SocHSs, the department has set up designated centers at Yau Ma Tei Jockey Club Polyclinic and Tang Chi Ngong Specialist Clinic in Wan Chai.

They can make a booking via email or dial 2547 1900 from Oct 3 to receive vaccination starting Oct 5, the release added.

The SAR government has procured a third-generation vaccine by making reference to the recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases.

The first shipment of the vaccine has already arrived in Hong Kong for use in the monkeypox vaccination program. According to the committees’ recommendation, a two-dose regime is required while those who have received the smallpox vaccine will only need one dose.

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Based on the administration method suggested by the committees and the current vaccine procurement, about 120,000 people can receive vaccination. 

The health authorities have urged high-risk people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Apart from vaccination, the government has reserved Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Centre for the quarantine of close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases.