• Says over 1,200 infections in three weeks unprecedented
World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, released an interim guidance regarding first recommendations on use of vaccines for monkeypox.
In a document, titled, “Vaccines and immunisation for monkeypox: Interim guidance,” the agency said the goal of the global response was to check the outbreak and effectively deploy public health measures to prevent further spread, noting that judicious application of vaccines could aid response.
The illness is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV). This double-stranded Deoxy ribo nucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material bug is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the Poxviridae family, related to the virus, which caused smallpox (eradicated in 1980).
WHO said the control of monkeypox outbreaks primarily relies on public health measures, including surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and care of patients. It said while smallpox vaccines are expected to provide some protection against the disease, clinical data remain limited.
According to the organisation, some countries have maintained strategic supplies of older smallpox vaccines from the Smallpox Eradication Programme (SEP) concluded in 1980. It said these first-generation vaccines held in national reserves are not recommended for monkeypox now, as they do not meet prevailing safety and manufacturing standards.
The United nations health agency acknowledged that many years of research had led to development of newer and safer (second- and third-generation) vaccines for smallpox, some of which might be useful for monkeypox, and one of which (MVA-BN) has been approved for prevention of the virus.
The interim guidance, from May 13 to June 9, 2022, noted that monkeypox had been reported to WHO from over 30 member-states that had not reported the disease.
“While epidemiological investigations are ongoing, the identification of over 1200 confirmed cases of monkeypox in just over three weeks is an unprecedented event,” it observed.
In April 2022, an Ad hoc Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation Working Group on smallpox and monkeypox vaccines was raised to advise WHO secretariat on vaccine usage.
The global body submitted: “While monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, human monkeypox has been reported since 1970, with rising frequency in recent years. Since 2017, seven countries in WHO Africa Region have reported outbreaks and most have continued to occur in forested rural areas. However, nations are increasingly reporting monkeypox in previously unaffected regions. In Nigeria, of the more than 550 cases reported since the outbreak began in 2017 (West Africa clade), many have occurred in urban and peri-urban areas. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has reported over 1,300 cases just from January to May 2022 (Congo Basin clade). Surveillance in all countries is expanding rapidly and WHO expects that more cases will be reported.”