Japan OK’s smallpox vaccine to prevent monkeypox

Courtesy of National Institute of Infectious Diseases
An electron microscopic image of the monkeypox virus

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — An expert panel of the health ministry on Friday approved the use of a smallpox vaccine made by KM Biologics Co., based in the southwestern city of Kumamoto, to prevent monkeypox.

Smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, the ministry said. The government has stockpiled smallpox vaccines as an antiterrorism measure.

The panel approved the KM Biologics vaccine for use in preventing infections with monkeypox and the development of severe symptoms. KM Biologics is a unit of Japanese food and pharmaceuticals company Meiji Holdings Co.

The World Health Organization is calling on medical workers and others with high risks of coming into contact with monkeypox patients to be vaccinated.

The ministry has vaccinated 50 medical workers at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine for research purposes. It has allowed the use of foreign-made monkeypox treatments that have yet to be approved in Japan at the NCGM and three other institutions in the prefectures of Osaka, Aichi and Okinawa.

Common symptoms of monkeypox include rashes and fever. Over 18,000 people in 78 countries had been infected with the virus as of Wednesday, according to the WHO.

Patients are mostly infected by coming into contact with the rashes or body fluids of infected people, and most recover naturally within two to four weeks. “Unlike with COVID-19, human-to-human transmission does not occur easily,” the ministry said.