The Guardian interviewed two monkeypox patients in the UK who said their experiences underscored the need for better testing, tracing, vaccination, and information around the disease.
One individual named Joel (The Guardian changed the names of its interview subjects) said that he struggled to find testing and was turned down for a vaccine after he became aware that a close contact had developed symptoms of the infection. Joel said that he was initially told that the vaccine was only available to healthcare workers, but was later informed by the UK Health Security Agency that he should have been offered the shot, as current guidelines suggest it should be administered within four days of exposure to lessen the infection's impact. Joel also provided anecdotal evidence that self-isolation mandates and current contact tracing procedures are not as effective as they should be, especially given the higher rates of the virus among those who practice frequent casual sex.
Meanwhile, Matt told The Guardian that when he was contacted by a sexual partner who was experiencing symptoms, he was told by the National Health Service information line that he, too, should self-isolate, but was not offered a vaccine because his contact had yet to be tested and confirmed as infectious.
He eventually was able to receive a vaccine five days after his sexual encounter, and when he was tested three days later, he had only a handful of lesions and an extremely mild case, he told The Guardian.
Matt conceded that healthcare staff were "doing their best with a limited number of doses" of the vaccine, but added that the thought the UKHSA's public messaging was lacking.
"They don't seem to be taking into account how quickly it can spread within networks of gay men where people have lots and lots of sexual partners," he told The Guardian.
For its part, a UKHSA spokesperson told the paper that "A decision on whether or not to offer a vaccine to a close contact of a confirmed monkeypox case is a clinical one made by trained health protection teams who carry out detailed assessments of each case." This decision considers "specific details of the exposure and the individual's risk level," The Guardian reported.