Monkeypox: WHO wants medics vaccinated

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked countries to vaccinate health workers and other individuals who are at high risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.

What you need to know:

  • According to the WHO June 14 guidelines, mass vaccination is, however, not required nor recommended for monkeypox at this time

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked countries to vaccinate health workers and other individuals who are at high risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.
Monkeypox, a potentially deadly disease characterised by fluid-filled blisters on the skin, has been reported in 1,300 people from the DR Congo just from January to May, according to a June 14 WHO report. 
 
The cases in DRC are concerning given the huge number of refugees fleeing to Uganda because of the ongoing war in DRC. At least six suspects, two from DRC, are being isolated in health facilities in Kisoro and Kampala as the country waits for laboratory test results.
According to the WHO June 14 guidelines, mass vaccination is, however, not required nor recommended for monkeypox at this time.

“For contacts of cases, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended with an appropriate second- or third-generation vaccine, ideally within four days of first exposure to prevent the onset of disease,” the WHO statement reads.
“Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is recommended for health workers at risk, laboratory personnel working with orthopoxviruses, clinical laboratory staff performing diagnostic testing for monkeypox, and others who may be at risk as per national policy. Decisions on use of smallpox or monkeypox vaccines should be based on a full assessment of risks and benefits on a case-by-case basis,” it added.
The WHO also emphasised the need for increased surveillance and contact-tracing, and accompanied by a strong information campaign to combat the disease.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, said they have not yet received the report for samples for suspected cases that the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) said it would take to South Africa for analysis.
The UVRI management said the country lacks reagents to test for monkeypox. The head of the Institute, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, could not be reached for comments by press time.

The Director General of Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, neither picked up the calls nor replied to the text message when our reporter tried to reach him for comments on the plans to avail this vaccine in Uganda. Sources within the Ministry indicated that the vaccine for monkeypox is not here in the country.
The WHO said last month that “Vaccination against smallpox has been shown to be protective against monkeypox. While one vaccine (MVA-BN) and one specific treatment (tecovirimat) were approved for monkeypox, in 2019 and 2022 respectively, these countermeasures are yet widely available.”

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