The acting director of Africa’s top public health agency says he hopes rich countries will not hoard vaccines during the current monkeypox outbreak, as they did with the jabs against COVID-19.
Monkeypox, a mild viral infection, is endemic in 11 African countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
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Since early May, more than 200 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus have been detected in at least 19 countries, mostly in Europe.
Last weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.
“Vaccines should go to where it is needed the most and equitably, so based on risk, and not on who can be able to buy it,” Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told a weekly press briefing on Thursday.
“We are working with all our member states on the continent to step up surveillance for monkeypox,” he said.
There are no current vaccines for monkeypox but the smallpox vaccine has been shown to offer up to 85 percent protection against monkeypox.
Available supplies of smallpox vaccines will be prioritised for health workers and areas with confirmed cases of the virus, Ouma added.
“The prioritisation is first health workers who are in the front line, and then the affected communities where the outbreaks are first characterised, before contemplating the general public,” he said.
“We do not have yet enough stocks to be able to go into the general public.”