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WHO to decide global health status of monkeypox Thursday

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will convene an emergency committee on the monkeypox virus next Thursday to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

Moeti Matshidiso, WHO regional director for Africa, who announced the decision at a virtual conference on Thursday said there are now a total of 1,900 confirmed cases in 39 countries across the globe, including 36 confirmed cases in Nigeria.

However, the organisation has begun to ramp up support to countries to urgently increase testing capacity for monkeypox and is in the process of procuring thousands of tests for the continent, he said.

Concerning the use of vaccines as a means of control, she explained that one of the newer and safer smallpox vaccines has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox.

However, “we are certainly not recommending mass vaccination at this stage. We must ensure that we are ready should the need arise,” she said, noting that the global body is working with members and partners on a coordination mechanism to ensure fair access to both vaccines and treatment.

Ifedayo Adetifa, director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in a monitored report said Nigeria has initiated discussions to obtain access to the vaccine and drugs. He explained that people at high risk of severe diseases such as those living with HIV/AIDS and others who are immunocompromised could benefit from treatment or vaccination.

Although, he raised concerns that the Covid-19 pandemic lessons about the equitable vaccine and treatment access were yet to really impact the health system.

In a few other African countries, an anti-viral drug registered in the US in 2018 and in Europe in 2022 is being used to inhibit the replication of the virus and prevent the viral particle from circulating in the body. It allows the immune system to fight the virus.

Read also: NCDC confirms 4 positive cases as Monkeypox spreads to Lagos, others

They are targeting the most vulnerable population with the treatment with a view to analyse the results, ensure it is easier to measure the efficiency of the intervention and facilitate the decision to widen its use.

But the lack of a monkeypox-specific vaccine has become a renewed subject of debate among industry experts, given that African countries where the disease is most endemic have not been able to solve the problem of access to treatment for many years.

A newer vaccine produced by Bavarian Nordic that is more efficacious against the virus is currently in short supply in endemic regions and WHO is only beginning to urge the manufacturer to increase production.

A report by Global Pulse indicates that the U.S. has a large number of doses at its disposal including 36,000 in its stockpile and 36,000 more to be delivered this week. Also, the government owns more than a million doses held by Bavarian Nordic — as well as the materials to manufacture over 16 million more.

The report also shows that while many countries in Africa have not made any order, others such as the U.K. government has purchased more than 20,000 doses.

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