Africa has still not received a single dose of the monkeypox vaccine despite being the only continent to record deaths from the disease, which has just been declared a global emergency.
“Let’s get the vaccines to the continent”breaks out Ahmed Ogwellacting director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Preventionduring a weekly press briefing. He described a situation where the African continent, which has a population of 1.3 billion, is again being left behind when it comes to access to doses, such as during the pandemic of Covid-19.
Less than a week agoWorld Health Organization (WHO) stated that monkeypox was a situation “extraordinary” qualified as a global health emergency**. To date, more than 20,000 cases have been reported in 77 countries. More than 2,100 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in 11 African countries and 75 people have died, Africa’s CDC director said.
Although monkeypox has been established for decades in some areas ofcentral Africa and West Africa, it was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among humans until May, when authorities discovered dozens of outbreaks in Europein North America and other places.
The global race is now on for doses of monkeypox vaccine. The European Commission, the executive body ofEuropean Union, obtained the purchase of 160,000 doses of vaccines against this disease. On Wednesday, US health officials said nearly 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine would soon be available for distribution after what they described as weeks of delay.
These delays are much more pronounced on the African continent, where the painful disease has been endemic in some countries for years. Ahmed Ogwell states that Africa CDC engaged with international partners to try to get vaccines, and although he said that many “great news” was expected in the next few days, it “may cause delay“.
Even doses of smallpox vaccine that have been shown to be effective against monkeypox are not available in Africa. “Solutions must be global”he said in a warning to the international community. “If we’re not safe, neither is the rest of the world”.
The Covid-19 pandemic and global hoarding vaccine doses came as a shock to African leaders, who quickly united in an unprecedented effort to secure doses and establish production of more vaccines on the continent. Today, the monkeypox epidemic shows, to their dismay, once again that the world’s richest countries are struggling to protect their own people first.
The WHO said it created a vaccine distribution mechanism for protection against monkeypox, but the organization gave few details, so there is no guarantee that African countries will be prioritized. No country has yet agreed to share vaccines with the WHO.
WHO officials have pointed out that monkeypox can infect anyone in the close contact with a patient or with their contaminated clothing or bedding. Scientists are still studying how the disease spreads, but they believe it is primarily through close contact, skin to skinand from contact with bedding and clothing that has touchedrash or body fluids from an infected person.
In Africa, monkeypox is mainly transmitted to humans by wild animals infected, such as rodents, in limited outbreaks that generally have not crossed borders. However, in Europe, North America and elsewhere, monkeypox is spreading among people with no connection to animals or recent travel to Africa.
In the USA and Europe, the vast majority of infections have occurred in men who have sex with menalthough the health authorities have emphasized that anyone can get the virus.