Sunday, June 4, 2023

As resources go to fight European and American monkeypox outbreaks, some Africans see disparity in response

OSUN, Nigeria ( Associated Press) — As health officials in Europe and elsewhere launch vaccines and drugs to stamp out the biggest monkeypox outbreak outside Africa, some doctors accept an ugly reality: the spread of the disease. Resources to slow this have long been available, just not for Africans who have dealt with it for decades.

Read more: WHO’s top monkeypox expert says disease unlikely to become a global pandemic

Countries including Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, Israel and Australia have reported more than 500 monkeypox cases, many of which have been tied to sexual activity, in two recent waves in Europe. No death has been reported.

Officials in several European countries and the US are offering to immunize people and consider the use of antivirals. On Thursday, the World Health Organization will convene a special meeting to discuss monkeypox research priorities and related issues.

Meanwhile, the African continent has recorded almost three times as many cases this year.

According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 1,400 monkeypox cases and 63 deaths in four countries where the disease is endemic – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Nigeria. Health officials say that so far, sequencing has not yet shown any direct link to the outbreak outside Africa.

According to the WHO, monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox, and smallpox vaccines are estimated to be about 85 percent effective against monkeypox.

Since identifying the cases earlier this month, Britain has vaccinated more than 1,000 people at risk of contracting the virus and bought 20,000 more doses. EU officials are in talks to buy more smallpox vaccines from Bavarian Nordic, the only manufacturer of such a vaccine licensed in Europe.

US government officials have issued about 700 doses of the vaccine to the states where the cases were reported.

Such measures are not routinely undertaken in Africa.

Dr. Adesola Yinka-Ogunli, who leads Nigeria’s Monkeypox Working Group, said that there are currently no vaccines or antivirals being used against monkeypox in her country. He said people suspected of having monkeypox are put in isolation and treated conservatively, while their contacts are monitored.

Africa CDC acting director Ahmed Ogwell said that generally, Africa has only a “small stock” of smallpox vaccine to offer health workers.

Dr Jimmy Whitworth, Professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said limited vaccine supplies and competing health priorities mean that vaccination against monkeypox has not been widely pursued in Africa.

“It’s a little uncomfortable that we have a different attitude based on the kind of resources we deploy,” he said. “It highlights a moral failure when those interventions are not available to the millions of people in Africa who need them.”

Read more: What you need to know about monkeypox and how is it spread?

The WHO has 31 million doses of smallpox vaccines, mostly placed in donor countries and intended as a quick response to any re-emergence of the disease, which was declared over in 1980. Doses have never been released for any monkeypox from the United Nations Health Agency’s stockpile. Outbreaks in Central or West Africa.

WHO emergencies chief Dr Mike Ryan said the agency was looking at allowing wealthy countries to use the smallpox vaccine to try to limit the spread of monkeypox. The WHO administers similar mechanisms to help poor countries receive vaccines for diseases such as yellow fever and meningitis, but such efforts have not previously been used for countries that could otherwise afford shots.

Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who sits on several WHO advisory boards, said releasing smallpox vaccines from the agency’s stockpix to prevent monkeypox from being endemic in wealthy countries may be warranted, but he added a role in WHO’s strategy. Discrepancy noted.

“A similar approach should have been adopted long ago to deal with the situation in Africa,” he said. “This is another example where some countries are more equal than others.”

Some doctors reported that stalled efforts to understand monkeypox are now complicating efforts to treat patients. Most people experience symptoms including fever, chills, and fatigue. But people with more severe disease often develop a rash on their face or hands that spreads elsewhere.

Dr. Hugh Adler and colleagues recently published a paper suggesting that the antiviral drug tecovirimat may help fight monkeypox. The drug, approved in the US to treat smallpox, was used in the UK in seven people infected with monkeypox from 2018 to 2021, but regulatory approval requires more details.

“If we had thought about obtaining this data earlier, we would not have been in a position where we have a potential treatment without sufficient evidence,” said Adler, a research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

He said that many diseases attracted significant wealth only after infecting people in rich countries.

Read more: New York health officials investigate possible monkeypox case

For example, it was only after the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016 – when many of the more than 28,000 cases in Africa made Americans sick with the disease – did the authorities finally begin research and protocols for Ebola vaccine licenses. intensified, capping a decades-long effort.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO’s Ryan said the agency was concerned about the continued spread of monkeypox in wealthy countries and was evaluating how it could prevent transmission of the disease there.

“I certainly haven’t heard the same level of concern over the past five or ten years,” he said, referring to the repeated epidemics of monkeypox in Africa, when thousands of people were sick with the disease in the central and western parts of the continent. . ,

Jay Chudi, a development specialist who lives in the Nigerian state of Enugu, which has reported cases of monkeypox since 2017, hopes that increased attention may eventually help address the problem. But he still lamented that it took the transition to rich countries to make it seem possible.

“You would think that the new cases are more lethal and dangerous than we have in Africa,” he said. “Now we are seeing that it may end once and for all, but because it is no longer only in Africa. Now everyone is worried.”

Cheng reported from London. Kara Anna in Nairobi and Mike Stobe in New York contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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