Associated Press reports that while “… countries including Britain, Canada, Germany and the U.S. have ordered millions of (monkeypox) vaccine doses, none has gone to Africa.”
After more than two years and major mishandling of the COVID-19 response, the world was once again caught unprepared for another emerging public health threat—this time, monkeypox—and countries and governments are now scrambling to secure vaccine doses and educate their publics about the virus
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today sharply criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) and the collective emerging and sluggish global response to monkeypox. AHF has particular concerns about news this weekend that vaccine doses—in critically short supply worldwide and with months-long production delays expected—have been ordered in the millions by wealthy Western countries including Canada, Great Britain, Germany and the U.S., yet NO doses are targeted for Africa.
Associated Press (via L.A. Times) reported Saturday on the WHO’s decision this weekend to finally declare monkeypox a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC). The AP story documented the explosive growth of monkeypox cases globally over the past two months, the critically low supply of vaccines worldwide and raised the issue of vaccine equity, reporting:
“Dr. Placide Mbala, a virologist who directs the global health department at Congo’s Institute of National Biomedical Research, said he hoped any global efforts to stop monkeypox would be equitable. Although countries including Britain, Canada, Germany and the U.S. have ordered millions of vaccine doses, none has gone to Africa.”
“The emerging disparities in monkeypox vaccine access are reminiscent of the inequities that have plagued COVID-19 and demonstrates that the world is once again failing to uphold the spirit of international cooperation and solidarity in addressing global public health threats,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, Africa Bureau Chief for AHF from Kampala. “HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 have shown us that discrimination and inequities can be catastrophic with lasting consequences on people and an already strained health system,” she added. “We demand that the principles of equity, fairness and inclusion must guide the roll-out of monkeypox vaccines, which ensures the same access to the vaccines for everyone who needs it regardless of who or where they are.”
Since May, the monkeypox virus erupted into several outbreaks or epidemics outside of Africa, where it has long been considered endemic in a handful of countries. Today, it’s become a worldwide public health crisis, with more than 16,600 confirmed or presumed positive cases reported across nearly 70 countries where it is not considered endemic, as of the July 25, 2022 Reuters daily “Factbox: Monkeypox cases around the world.” The vast majority of these infections are occurring in gay men and men who have sex with men.
“Despite just navigating more than two years of COVID, world, U.S. and global health leaders were once again caught flat-footed and woefully unprepared, this time, for monkeypox,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein from Los Angeles. “It has also sadly taken until Saturday—more than two months since cases were first reported outside Africa—for WHO to declare the virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Given the rapid, uncontrolled spread of this virus, WHO should immediately declare monkeypox what it really is: a pandemic. And vaccine doses MUST be shared equitably with low- and middle-income countries in Africa and elsewhere.”