With more than 7,600 cases throughout 58 countries globally, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urges the World Health Organization not to repeat the past mistake of delaying declarations for COVID-19 and immediately declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
COVID-19 was allowed to spread for months before WHO belatedly declared it a PHEIC and then a pandemic – wiping out precious time that would have allowed governments to adequately prepare and respond. Since early 2022, nine West and Central African countries have been endemic zones for monkeypox, with nearly 1,600 suspected or confirmed cases and 72 deaths.
“The WHO cannot keep sitting on their hands – monkeypox, a disease endemic to several countries in Africa has spread widely, a development we do not yet fully understand. This is a cause for concern and a reason for a declaration of a global health emergency,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, Bureau Chief for AHF Africa. “When the alarm bells ring, global health institutions must spring to action to inform the public, provide prevention advice, and give guidance to doctors and health care providers – we do not see enough of that. It’s also regrettable that an endemic disease in the global South only receives international attention when it jumps and affects general populations in wealthy countries.”
A PHEIC declaration for monkeypox would also add urgency to produce and widely distribute sufficient quantities of vaccines and tests. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved JYNNEOS, a smallpox vaccine, for use to prevent monkeypox infection. The European Medicines Agency is considering the same for Imvanex, the same drug marketed under a different name, according to Health Policy Watch.
AHF issued a previous statement calling on the WHO to declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern after the global health agency failed to do so at its meeting on June 25.