WASHINGTON, CMC – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has announced that member states, including Caribbean countries, have approved a resolution to support access to monkeypox vaccines, as cases of the disease continue to rise in several countries of the Americas.
PAHO said member states held a special session of the Directing Council to consider a resolution to address the outbreak, including supporting equitable access to vaccines for at-risk populations in the region.
PAHO noted that, on July 23, 2022, the director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak, which began in mid-May and has affected 89 countries across all six WHO regions, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
According to PAHO, over 10,000 monkeypox infections have been reported by 24 countries in the Americas since the start of the outbreak, accounting for 38 percent of global cases.
“The PHEIC declaration came with detailed recommendations for both countries and territories who haven’t detected any cases as well as for those who already have imported cases or transmission in their communities,” said PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne.
“We believe that when the recommended measures are appropriately implemented, we can stop transmission of the monkeypox virus,” she added.
The recommendations, which PAHO said it is working with member states to implement, include communication and engagement with affected communities, early detection and surveillance, treatment and isolation of patients, and contact tracing.
However, “post- or pre-exposure vaccination might be needed to complement the other measures,” Etienne said.
While supplies of the vaccine are extremely limited, Etienne said PAHO has engaged in early negotiations with the lone manufacturer.
In light of this, the resolution requested PAHO’s director to facilitate a coordinated response and take steps to support member states in obtaining access to the vaccine through the PAHO Revolving Fund.
It also requests that countries of the Region of the Americas continue to recognise PAHO and its Revolving Fund as the strategic regional technical mechanism most suitable for providing equitable access to the vaccine and others.
The recommendations of PAHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Vaccine Preventable Diseases, as well as those of the Emergency Committee of the International Health Regulations, convened by WHO, stipulate that countries should prioritise vaccines for specific groups, such as close contacts of a confirmed monkeypox case, in order to maximise impact considering the limited vaccine supply.
PAHO said monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Symptoms include fever, intense headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle ache, and a rash that blisters and crusts.
The rash tends to be concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet, said PAHO, adding that the mouth, genitals and eyes may also be affected.
Symptoms can be mild or severe, and generally last for several weeks during which time a person can be infectious to others.
Most people recover within a few weeks without treatment, PAHO said. It said monkeypox disease is reported regularly in nine countries of Central and West Africa since it was first recognised in 1958 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, since mid-May 2022, an increasing number of monkeypox cases have been reported first in multiple countries in Europe and later in other regions, including the Americas.
As of August 5 some 37,360 probable and laboratory-confirmed cases were reported to the WHO from 89 countries across all six WHO regions.