The vast majority of deaths due to monkeypox have been registered on the African continent. Africa remains the only part of the world with no doses of the vaccine, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Let us get vaccines onto the continent,” acting head of the African Centre for Disease Control, ACDC, Ahmed Ogwell, said in a weekly media briefing on Thursday, pointing to another instance of 1.3 billion people on the continent without access to a vaccine, as in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organisation declared monkeypox a new global health emergency after 20,000 cases were reported in 77 countries. Some 75 people have died in the 11 African countries where the disease was recorded, according to Ogwell.
While the disease was already present on the continent in central and west Africa before the global spread, it was detected in Europe, North America and Asia in May as it spread.
Monkeypox on the African continent was mainly spread to people via infected rodents, while in Europe and North America, people with no links to animals or recent trips to the African continent seems to be contracting the disease.
WHO has stressed that anyone can be infected with monkeypox if they are in close contact with someone with the disease or they touch contaminated clothing or sheets. However, researchers are still looking into how it is spread via skin-to-skin contact.
Race for the vaccine
Both the US and Europe have secured doses after a number of delays; the European Commission reported it has purchased 160,000 vaccines, while the US has obtained some 800,000 doses that will soon be distributed.
Africa CDC has been working to get vaccines to the continent, but Ogwell said that it could not yet indicate when this would happen.
“The solutions need to be global in nature,” he said, a point well-learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, where the West put their own populations first before the African continent. “If we’re not safe, the rest of the world is not safe.”
African governments worked together with international bodies to create their own vaccines after the significant lag time in getting Covid-19 doses.
WHO has said it is creating a vaccine-sharing mechanism for the monkeypox vaccine without giving any details, so it is not evident whether African countries will have priority.
Both in Europe and the US, most infections have occurred in men who have sex with men, though health officials have stressed that anyone can contract the virus.