No need for mass vaccination against monkeypox – WHO
There is no need for mass vaccination against monkeypox but contact tracing and isolation remain essential to contain the outbreak, Rosamund Lewis, the head of the World Health Organization’s smallpox department, said on Friday.
During a briefing in Geneva, Lewis said that, according to the latest advice from WHO, only people who professionally deal with viruses – i.e. lab personnel, health workers, and first responders – might need to be considered for extra protection. Smallpox countermeasures, including vaccines, are believed to be effective against monkeypox.
“What we have advised so far is that there is no need for mass vaccination, there is no need for large immunization campaigns,” Lewis said.
However, she explained, as the disease gets transmitted primarily by close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact, and face-to-face contact, “contact tracing, investigation, and isolation remain the primary modes of control for the time being.”
The WHO expert stressed that it was “critically important” to take the isolation of contacts very seriously.
Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday that, within the last 24 hours, 16 new cases of monkeypox have been identified, bringing the total number of UK cases to 106. This makes Britain the country with the highest number of cases in Europe.
“The risk to the UK population remains low, but we are asking people to be alert to any new rashes or lesions, which would appear like spots, ulcers or blisters, on any part of their body,” the agency said.
The UKHSA disclosed it had purchased over 20,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine called Imvanex, which is being offered to close contacts of monkeypox patients.
Earlier this week, Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer – the company behind one of the most widely used Covid vaccines – said that the monkeypox outbreak was very unlikely to turn into a pandemic as the virus was not particularly transmissible.
“We're staying calm and monitoring the situation, but I think right now the real problem is still Covid,” he told Sky News.
Dozens of cases of monkeypox – a disease that leaves distinctive pustules on skin but rarely results in fatalities – have been identified in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.
The WHO had previously forewarned that Europe should expect a wave of monkeypox cases in the coming months. It also noted that the current spread of the virus was “atypical” as it was previously confined mostly to central and western Africa.