WHO is developing initiatives for equitable access to monkeypox vaccine.
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) is designing a new vaccine distribution mechanism to prevent the spread of monkeypox. The disease is known to have spread to non-endemic countries, including Europe and America.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his agency is currently developing initiatives for equitable access to vaccines and treatments for monkeypox. The mechanism is expected to be ready in the coming weeks.
The smallpox vaccine is estimated to be 85 percent effective against monkeypox. WHO Director for Europe Hans Kluge expressed concern about the spread monkey pox in the Blue Realm. “Europe remains the epicenter of this escalating outbreak, with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases or 85 percent of the global total,” Kluge said.
At the same time, Kluge is concerned that some rich countries are trying to buy more smallpox vaccine without discussing supplies for Africa, where monkeypox is endemic. He urged governments to approach monkeypox eradication without repeating the mistakes of the pandemic. However, Kluge did not rule out the possibility that countries such as the UK, which currently has the largest number of monkeypox cases outside Africa, will receive the vaccine through the WHO mechanism.
WHO’s decision to design a vaccine distribution mechanism has been questioned by a number of African experts. They criticize why such policies have never been implemented for countries in central and west Africa. “The place to start any vaccination should be in Africa and nowhere else,” said Acting Director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Ahmed Ogwell.
He reminded, currently Africa is still struggling against the monkeypox epidemic. This year there have been 72 deaths there, including 1,500 suspected cases. According to Ogwell, conditions in Africa are more critical when compared to rich countries that have reported cases of monkeypox.
Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor also criticized the WHO’s smallpox vaccine distribution policy. He argued that the move was an extension of the injustices experienced by Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have hundreds of cases of monkeypox in Nigeria from 2017 to now and we are just dealing with it ourselves. Nobody is discussing when there might be a vaccine available for Africa,” Nsofor said.