Petition for vaccine against monkeypox gains force

A health worker prepares a vaccine to be used against monkeypox in Germany, mid July Keystone / Sven Hoppe

A petition calling for Switzerland to take more action against monkeypox, including vaccinating against the disease, has gathered more than 5,500 signatures, Swiss public television SRF reported on Sunday.

This content was published on August 21, 2022 minutes

Switzerland has recorded almost 400 casesExternal link of monkeypox since May 21 this year, the date of the first confirmed case.

In comparison to its neighbours, the country now has the highest incidence rate – which measures how quickly disease occurs in a population, said SRFExternal link (45.91, compared with under 40 for Germany and France and 11.18 for Italy.)

Most of the reported Swiss cases are among gay men. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with skin and mucous membranes, also during sexual activity.

The petition, launched on August 10 by Pink Cross, the Swiss association for gay and bisexual men, wants the Swiss authorities to declare the monkeypox outbreak a “special situation”, which gives the federal government certain powers in context of a public health outbreak. 

Vaccination happening elsewhere

The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on July 23.

Switzerland's neighbours have already started against the disease, using jabs which were originally approved for smallpox. But no vaccine against monkeypox has been approved for use or procured by Swiss authorities.

"I notice that there is a lot of uncertainty about how to deal with this now and, above all, a lot of frustration with the government," Roman Heggli, Executive Director of Pink Cross, told SRF on Sunday. "There would be an effective vaccine against this monkeypox, and yet it is simply not available in Switzerland."

The vaccine has to be procured directly from the manufacturer by the government. "The manufacturer has not submitted a marketing authorisation application in Switzerland for use against monkeypox, and apparently does not intend to do so,” the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said in a written statement to SRF.

Next steps

However, the FOPH confirmed to SRF that negotiations were currently underway.

For Pink Cross the process is going too slowly. “For us it is quite clear that the government must procure this vaccine as quickly as possible, and in sufficient quantities," Heggli said.

Pink Cross expects to hand in its petitionExternal link – which by Sunday evening had 5,766 signatures – to the government during the coming week, SRF says.

Petitions in Switzerland

Anyone can start and sign a petition, on any topic, and no minimum number of signatures are required. There is no predefined form, it doesn’t trigger a vote and the authorities must only acknowledge the reception, but aren’t required to respond.

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