No Monkeypox Vaccines for African Countries
Scientists call for the disease outbreak in Africa to be taken seriously, it's time to prioritise stopping the virus in the continent.
With monkeypox cases subsiding in Europe and parts of North America, many scientists say now is the time to prioritise stopping the virus from spreading in Africa.
Earlier this year in July, the U.N. health agency declared monkeypox as a global emergency. They appealed to the world to offer support to African countries with vaccines this time, because the inequity in the distribution of vaccines for the Covid-19 pandemic was disturbing, and they did not want a repeat of this.
Nonetheless, it seems that the global attention spike on monkeypox hasn't quite spread to the continent. No Western countries have been reported to share vaccines, treatments or resources with any African countries.
Some experts now fear that the interest in solving the virus spread in the continent will soon evaporate. At Congo's Institute of Biomedical Research, Placide Mbala, a virologist who directs the Global Health Research department told journalists: "nothing has changed for us here, the focus is all on monkeypox in the West...the countries in Africa where monkeypox is endemic are still in the same situation we have always been, with weak resources for surveillance, diagnostics, and even the care of patients".
Monkeypox has sickened people in parts of West and Central Africa since the 1970s, but it wasn't until the disease triggered unusual outbreaks in Europe and North America that public health officials even thought to use vaccines.
The first human case of the virus was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1970. Although researchers are still unsure about which animals the virus is naturally harboured in, they do know that it circulates among many species of rodent and can be transmitted from animals to humans. A significant outbreak began in Nigeria in 2017, with more than 200 confirmed and 500 suspected cases. Over the past 10 years the DRC has seen thousands of suspected cases, as well as hundreds of suspected deaths.
This is why many African researchers are disheartened. Despite the continent being the most affected part of the world with the highest disease toll, such resources have not been made available in their countries. They point out that they have warned the Western world of the potential for the monkeypox virus, having the potential to behave in new ways to spread more widely, which has now happened.
As Western and wealthier countries rushed to buy nearly the entire world's supply of the most advanced vaccine against the virus, the WHO (World Health Organisation) said in June, that it would create a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help countries that need doses.
More to follow on this story.
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