Guys’ and St Thomas’ Hospital has cancelled its walk-in monkeypox vaccination clinic this weekend, as a sexual health activist slams the rollout.
Guys’ and St Thomas’ Hospital (GSTT) previously scheduled walk-in clinics for the IMVANEX monkeypox vaccine for the weekends beginning July 30 and August 6.
But in a tweet at 1.30pm yesterday (Friday, August 5), GSTT announced: “Our monkeypox vaccination clinics at Guy’s Hospital are now appointment only. We apologise to anyone who was planning to attend our walk-in clinic. If you have a booked appointment please attend as normal.”
Greg Owen, founder of iwantPrEPnow, a sexual health organisation, told the News he was “so angry” about a lack of communication from UKHSA and said the vaccine roll-out had been a “shambolic chaotic mess”.
He said: “None of us can get any information about what is happening with ongoing procurement. We can’t get any information – it’s practically impossible.”
Last weekend, (July 30 – 31) there were reports that the GSTT walk-in vaccination clinic had ran out of vaccines by 11am on Sunday.
Greg Owen said: “I’ve heard anecdotally that on Sunday the clinic closed just as it was opening.”
On Twitter, one user wrote: “My son queued both yesterday (July 30) and today (July 31). Yesterday they had run out by 16:20 and again today already run out by 11:00.”
The News asked GSTT to confirm whether this was true. A spokesperson from the trust simply said: “Due to the very limited supply of the monkeypox vaccine, our vaccination clinics at Guy’s Hospital are now appointment only and people should only attend if they have been contacted by us.”
“In line with UKHSA guidance, our teams are working very hard to deliver the vaccine prioritising those that are eligible who have been contacted and booked in for appointments.”
The decision to cancel this weekend’s walk-in clinic suggests a u-turn in vaccination strategy. While last weekend GSTT were holding walk-in clinics, the GSTT website now links users to a gov.co.uk website which tells people to seek vaccines at their local clinic.
Greg said he knew people who were travelling from Manchester and Belfast to Guys’, only to be told this afternoon the clinic was cancelled. He said his friend from Belfast had already spent £200 on flights.
The webpage also says the vaccine is being offered to people who are “most at risk right now”.
While the walk-in clinics were advertised as being for those who are “eligible” it is unclear whether patients were being vetted to ensure they were high priority.
This raises questions as to whether GSTT administered vaccines to people who were ineligible.
Greg believes this is a possibility. He said at walk-in clinics you could get a vaccine simply by saying you were eligible.
He said this is different from being invited, in which case people’s medical histories are checked and cross-referenced to confirm they’re high risk.
According to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), people eligible for their first vaccine are healthcare workers working with monkeypox patients, men who have sex with men, and people who have had a confirmed contact with a monkeypox patient.
The News asked GSTT whether attendees to the clinic were vetted for eligibility, but they declined to comment on that subject.
This disruption comes amidst widespread reports of a monkeypox vaccine shortage, with UKHSA saying it has a “limited supply”.
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark said: “Southwark needs protecting from the spread of monkeypox but ministers are too busy monkeying around with their leadership infighting to focus on the serious issue at hand.
“More vaccines are required urgently but demand vastly outstrips supply currently. The NHS has shown that, when equipped, it is the best health service in the world. Sadly, Tory ministers have learned nothing from Covid and appear to be making the same mistakes with monkeypox.”
There have been more than 2,600 cases of monkeypox in the UK so far, mostly among men who have sex with men.
The Department for Health and Social says it has procured over 150,000 vaccines.
UKHSA has been approached for comment.