#Monkeypox #concerned #vaccine #sharing
The World Health Organization has said it will create a new vaccine-sharing mechanism to stem the monkeypox outbreak in more than 30 countries beyond Africa. The move could prompt the UN health agency to distribute the rare vaccine doses to rich countries that could otherwise afford them.
For some health experts, the initiative could miss the opportunity to control the monkeypox virus in African countries where it has been infecting people for decades, again illustrating the inequity in the distribution of vaccines that has been observed during the coronavirus pandemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency was developing an initiative for “equitable access” to vaccines and treatments and expected to have it ready within weeks. The mechanism was proposed shortly after Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the United States and other countries reported hundreds of monkeypox cases last month. The WHO described the outbreak as “unusual” and said the continued spread of the virus was worrying enough to convene its expert committee next week to decide whether monkeypox should be declared a global emergency.
Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, are thought to be about 85% effective against monkeypox. The WHO director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said on Wednesday that he was concerned that some rich countries would rush to buy more vaccines, let alone buy some for Africa. Dr. Kluge urged governments to “tackle monkeypox without repeating the mistakes of the pandemic.” Still, he did not rule out the possibility that countries like Britain, which is currently experiencing the largest outbreak beyond Africa, could receive vaccines through the WHO mechanism. He said that the program is being created for all countries and the vaccines will be widely distributed according to their epidemiological needs. “Europe remains the epicenter of this growing epidemic, with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases, or 85% of the global total,” Dr Kluge noted.
Some African experts have questioned why the UN health agency has never offered to use vaccines in West and Central Africa, where the disease is endemic. “The place to start any vaccination should be Africa and nowhere else,” said Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He added that the lack of vaccines to combat monkeypox on the continent, where more than 1,500 suspected cases and 72 deaths were reported this year, was a more critical concern than clusters of mainly mild diseases reported in rich countries. “This is an extension of the inequity we have seen during COVID,” said Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch. “From 2017 to now, we have had hundreds of monkeypox cases in Nigeria and we are dealing with them alone,” he said. “No one has discussed when vaccines might be available for Africa. »
After the coronavirus pandemic broke out in 2020, global health agencies scrambled to establish COVAX, a UN-backed effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. But rich countries bought most of the world’s supply, and the COVAX program failed to meet several targets for sharing doses with the world’s poor. To date, only about 17% of people in poor countries have received a dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Some experts fear the same thing will happen with monkeypox. “As with COVID, there is no clear path on how poorer countries will be able to get vaccines,” said Brook Baker, a law professor at Northeastern University who specializes in vaccine and drug access. He warned that while the WHO tries to find out how many vaccine doses are available, rich countries that previously promised doses may not cooperate. “Rich countries will protect themselves while people in the South die,” Baker predicted.
On Monday, the advocacy group Public Citizen sent a letter to the White House, asking if the Biden administration would release the 20 million smallpox vaccines the United States promised in 2004 for the WHO to use in emergencies, such as a biological attack. Asked about the commitment, a senior US official said the administration was “exploring all options” to continue its efforts to curb monkeypox in the United States and around the world. The official said the United States had returned more than 200,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine to the manufacturer to make it available to others. The official declined to say whether the United States views the current monkeypox outbreak as an emergency warranting the release of the promised 20 million vaccines. Francois Balloux, an infectious disease expert at University College London, said vaccination efforts in rich countries should prompt a rethink of future monkeypox response strategies in Africa.
“It really should be a priority to vaccinate people in Africa, where there is a more virulent strain that has actually killed people,” he said, adding that more impacts from monkeypox are likely. “Whatever vaccination is going on in Europe, it’s not going to solve the problem,” Balloux said.
Photo credit: PC.