Any vaccination campaign against monkeypox should “begin in Africa,” the acting head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday, as worries grow wealthy countries will repeat missteps of the Covid-19 pandemic and ignore the continent in a rush to secure scarce supplies.
Covid vaccine protests in Africa, where many were unable to secure needed shots.
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Countries in the continent hardest-hit by the disease have not received any monkeypox vaccines despite seeing more infectionse, higher risks and broader geographical spread than elsewhere, said acting director of Africa CDC Ahmed Ogwell Ouma.
Ouma stressed that vaccines must be shared and warned that the outbreak in Africa is “not yet contained.”
He cautioned against repeating the situation African countries faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the continent was unable to secure life saving vaccines as wealthy countries snapped up supplies.
Ouma said there have been 1,597 suspected cases of monkeypox recorded across Africa this year, 66 of which have been fatal.
He said infections have been confirmed in nine different countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
What To Watch For
The World Health Organization’s response. Ouma said the Africa CDC was working with the WHO to secure vaccines used to tackle monkeypox. While the WHO does not recommend mass vaccination for monkeypox in light of the outbreak, it said on Thursday that the continent should be prepared for this eventuality. Dr. Moeti Tshidi, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, stressed the importance of strong surveillance to monitor disease outbreaks and said the organization is working to secure thousands of monkeypox tests for the continent.
Monkeypox is rarely found outside parts of Central and Western Africa, where it is believed to be harbored by rodents and has caused disease for decades. It is a relatively well understood virus—in part due its close relation to smallpox, one of humanity’s biggest killers—for which treatments and vaccines are available, though supplies are scarce and up-to-date clinical data is hard to come by, if it exists at all (smallpox was eradicated by vaccination decades ago). Historically, though with notable exceptions, most cases of monkeypox outside of Africa have been linked to travel in the region, which is why the discovery of the virus spreading in Europe and North America in May alarmed scientists and public health officials. Experts and officials have been quick to condemn racist rhetoric linking the virus to Africa and the WHO is pushing for the virus and disease it causes to be renamed to “minimize the negative impact.” Experts have also denounced homophobic rhetoric on the outbreak, following reports that a majority of cases were among men who identify as gay or bisexual or who have sex with men.
1,900. That’s how many confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported in 39 countries around the globe, the WHO’s Tshudi said on Thursday. Eight of those countries are in Africa, Tshidi said (the WHO figure does not include reports from Sierra Leone that have been counted in the Africa CDC total). There are also a similar number of cases that are suspected, but not confirmed. A sizable number of cases have been found outside the regions of Africa monkeypox is known to spread. The vast majority of these are in Europe, which the WHO’s director for the region, Dr. Hans Kluge, said was the “epicenter” of an “escalating” outbreak. More than 1,500 cases, 85% of the global total, have been reported in 25 countries across the region, he said.