Monkeypox: WHO says there is no urgent need for vaccines

LONDON –

The World Health Organization does not believe the monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa will require mass vaccinations as measures such as good hygiene and safe sexual behavior will help control its spread, a senior official said on Monday.

Richard Pebody, who leads the high-threat pathogens team at WHO Europe, also told Reuters in an interview that immediate supplies of vaccines and antivirals are relatively limited.

His comments came as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were in the process of rolling out some doses of the Jynneos vaccine for use in monkeypox cases.

Germany’s government said on Monday it was evaluating options for the vaccines, while Britain offered them to some health workers.

Public health authorities in Europe and North America are investigating more than 100 suspected and confirmed cases of the viral infection in the worst outbreak of the virus outside of Africa, where it is endemic.

The main measures to control the outbreak are contact tracing and isolation, Pebody said, noting that it is not a virus that spreads very easily, nor has it caused serious illness so far. The vaccines used to combat monkeypox can have some significant side effects, she added.

It’s unclear what’s driving the outbreak as scientists try to understand where the cases are coming from and whether anything has changed in the virus. There is no evidence the virus has mutated, a senior executive at the UN agency said separately on Monday.

Many, but not all, of the people who have been diagnosed in the current monkeypox outbreak have been men who have sex with men. But that may be because this demographic is more likely to seek medical advice or access sexual health screenings, the WHO said earlier in the day.

Most of the confirmed cases have not been linked to travel to Africa, suggesting there may be a large number of undetected cases, Pebody said. Some health authorities suspect that there is some degree of community spread.

“So we’re just seeing… the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Given the pace of the outbreak and the lack of clarity about what is driving it, there are concerns that the big events and parties this summer could make things worse.

“I’m not telling people not to have a good time, not to go to these events,” Pebody said.

“It’s more about what people do at parties that matters. So it’s about safe sexual behaviour, good hygiene, regular hand washing – all these kinds of things will help limit the transmission of this virus.” “.


(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Josephine Mason, Stephen Coates and Bill Berkrot)

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