AFRICA – Senior World Health Organisation (WHO) officials in the agency’s African Regional Office have expressed concerns about the inequitable access to monkeypox vaccines on the global scale as richer nations scramble for vaccines and treatments.
Senior WHO officials said that WHO’s Africa Region has only received 39,000 test kits for the virus while vaccines and treatments remain unavailable on the continent where the disease is endemic and often more deadly.
The health authorities noted more than a month after declaring Monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the Africa Region has only received a very small proportion of vaccines.
According to the global public health media service Health Policy Watch, the sluggish response and lack of support for African countries doesn’t match the urgency called for in WHO’s declaration of monkeypox as a global public health emergency.
We must avoid having two different responses to monkeypox – one for Western countries which are only now experiencing significant transmission and another for Africa. We must work together and have joined-up global actions which include Africa’s experience, expertise and needs.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti pointed out that governments must work together and have joined-up global actions which include Africa’s experience, expertise and needs while noting that the African continent should have equal access to effective monkeypox vaccines.
“Except for a small cohort study in the Central African Republic (CAR), Monkeypox vaccines and treatments are not yet available on the continent,” said Matshidiso Moeti.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa revealed that the study of the anti-viral treatment Tecovirimat (TPOXX™) has been ongoing amongst a small group of volunteers in CAR, under the direction of the University of Oxford, the Ministry of Health and SIGA, the drug manufacturer.
She further said that while parts of the continent might have built up some immunity against the disease, there are populations that are particularly vulnerable such as health workers and contacts of cases.
Dr Fiona Braka, Team Lead, Emergency Operations at WHO AFRO told Health Policy Watch that in the absence of other tools, the continent is relying more on non-pharmaceutical measures to control the spread of the disease.
She further observed that the monkeypox virus seems to be transmitting more intensively person to person in Africa as well as abroad after decades in which exposure was more limited to people in contact with infected animal populations.
“The infection control modalities being put in place stem from the experience of several countries in the region such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria that have been experiencing Monkeypox outbreaks since the 1970s,” she noted.
Dr Fiona Braka highlighted that the infection control measures include ensuring that the local communities are aware of the diseases and that they protect themselves and those that are around them while ensuring that there is no contact to avoid transmission.
“Monkeypox spreads through direct skin-to-skin or mouth-to-skin kind of contact. It’s important that there is separation when it comes to infection. We must ensure that there is adequate surveillance in place to be able to detect these cases rapidly and provide the necessary management,” she added.
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