Government secures monkeypox medicine

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall has today announced the Government has secured monkeypox (MPX) medicine tecovirimat which is expected to be available in New Zealand from late September.

In addition Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) is also working with Pharmac to secure a supply of a smallpox vaccine known as Imvanex or Jynneos, which is effective against monkeypox.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to secure 504 courses of the monkeypox medicine tecovirimat. This medicine will be free and used to treat those who become unwell with MPX,” Ayesha Verrall said.  

“While New Zealand doesn’t currently have any active cases of MPX, and the risk of widespread transmission is low it is important we are prepared.  

“Sometimes people with the virus experience painful lesions and some people may require hospital level care. This medicine will help those people. 

“Labour Governments have a long history of supporting Aotearoa’s LGBTQIA+ and takatāpui communities and I hope that this news will alleviate some worry for those who may be at risk if further cases occur in New Zealand.  

‘While most people with MPX will be able to isolate and recover fine at home, having access to this medicine provides assurance that we can assist people who could be more impacted by MPX.

“Treatment is just a small part of our wide ranging response in preparation for a potential MPX outbreak. The Public Health Agency and Te Whatu Ora have taken a holistic approach ranging from prevention and preparation messaging, testing availability, contract tracing and providing support to those who contract it and need to isolate. 

“Testing for MPX can be carried out at sexual health or family planning clinic as well as a general medical practice. The test itself is just a quick swab of any lesions on your skin and/or a throat swab. 

“We are also working hard to secure access to a vaccine, but there is limited global supply and distribution is being prioritised to those countries experiencing outbreaks, which we currently aren’t. 

“While MPX is not as contagious as some other diseases, such as measles or COVID-19, it is still key that if you develop symptoms you stay home, self-isolate and seek advice. Many illnesses can cause similar symptoms so it may not be MPX, but it’s important to get help,” said Dr Ayesha Verrall.