With monkeypox cases declining in Europe and parts of North America, many scientists say it is time to prioritize stopping the virus in Africa.
In July, the United Nations health agency classified monkeypox as a global emergency and appealed to the world to support African countries so that the catastrophic inequalities in vaccines that have plagued COVID-19 do not repeat.
But the global rise in interest has had little impact on the continent. No rich country has shared vaccines or treatments with Africa, and some experts fear interest may soon evaporate.
“Nothing has changed for us here. The focus is all on monkeypox in the West,” said Placid Mbala, a virologist who directs global health research at the Congo Institute for Biomedical Research.
“Countries in Africa where monkeypox is endemic are still in the same position as we have always been, with poor resources for monitoring, diagnosis and even patient care,” he said.
Rich countries stockpiled the vaccine
Monkeypox has infected people in parts of West and Central Africa since the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the disease caused an unusual outbreak in Europe and North America that public health officials thought they were using the vaccines. As rich countries rush to buy nearly all of the world’s supply of the most advanced monkeypox vaccine, the World Health Organization said in June it would create a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help countries in need get the doses.
So far, that hasn’t happened.
“Africa is still not benefiting from monkeypox vaccines or antiviral treatments,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Director of Africa at the World Health Organization, adding that only small amounts were available for research purposes. Since 2000, Africa has reported 1,000 to 2,000 cases of suspected monkeypox each year. So far this year, the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified about 3,000 suspected infections, including more than 100 deaths.
In recent weeks, cases of monkeypox globally have fallen by more than a quarter, including by 55% in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
The lack of assistance to Africa is reminiscent of the injustices seen during COVID-19, said Dr Evidio Aditiva, head of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control.
“Everyone took care of their problem and left the others,” he said. Adityefa lamented that the outbreak of monkeypox in Africa did not receive international attention, which might prevent the virus from spreading globally.
Rich countries expanded their supplies of vaccines using one-fifth of the usual dose, but none expressed interest in helping Africa. The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Americas recently announced that it has struck a deal for 100,000 doses of monkeypox that will begin delivery to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean within weeks. But no similar agreements have been reached for Africa.
“I would very much like to have vaccinations to offer to my patients or anything that can reduce their hospital stay,” said Dr. Demi Ogwena, professor of medicine at Niger Delta University in Nigeria and WHO emergency member against monkeypox. A committee.
Since the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global emergency, Nigeria has seen the disease continue to spread, with few significant interventions.
“We still don’t have the funds to do all the studies we need,” Ogwena said.
Mbala, of the Congo Institute for Biomedical Research, said research into animals that carry monkeypox and spread it to humans in Africa is fragmented and lacks coordination.
Last week, the White House said it was optimistic about the recent decline in monkeypox cases in the United States, saying that authorities had administered more than 460,000 doses of the vaccine produced by Bavaria Nordic.
Cases are declining in the United States
The United States has about 35% of the more than 56,000 cases of monkeypox in the world, but nearly 80% of the world’s vaccine supply, according to a recent analysis by advocacy group Public Citizen.
The United States has not announced any monkeypox vaccine donations to Africa, but the White House recently submitted a request to Congress for $600 million in global aid.
Other experts said that even if rich countries start sharing monkeypox tools with Africa soon, they should not be praised.
“It should not be the case that countries only decide to share the remaining vaccines when the epidemic subsides in their own countries,” said Piero Oliaro, professor of infectious diseases of poverty at Oxford University. “It’s exactly the same scenario as COVID, and it’s still completely unethical.”
Oliaro, who recently returned to the UK from a trip to the Central African Republic to work on monkeypox, said the WHO’s emergency declaration did not appear to provide tangible benefits in Africa.
In Nigeria’s Lagos state, which includes the country’s largest city and has been hit hard by monkeypox, some people are calling on the government to urgently do more.
“You can’t tell me the situation wouldn’t have improved without a vaccine,” said Timitayo Lawal, a 29-year-old economist.
“If there is no need for vaccines, why do we now see the United States and all these countries using them?” Asked. “Our government needs to get doses, too.”