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In the face of concerns about inequality, the WHO will provide vaccines to combat monkeypox.

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization has announced that it would be establishing a new mechanism for the distribution of vaccines in order to put a stop to the spread of monkeypox to more than 30 nations outside of Africa. Because of this move, it’s possible that the United Nations health agency may give scarce vaccination doses to wealthy countries that would otherwise be able to afford them.

Another illustration of the unequal distribution of vaccines that was seen during the coronavirus pandemic is provided by the fact that the initiative may miss an opportunity to control the monkeypox virus in African countries where it has infected people for decades. This would be similar to the situation that arose during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, stated that the organisation is working on an initiative to ensure “fair access” to vaccines and treatments, and it is hoped that the programme would be ready within the next few weeks. The mechanism was developed not long after a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Britain, reported hundreds of cases of monkeypox the previous month.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to the epidemic as “unusual,” and it has stated that the continuous spread of the virus is worrisome enough that it will convene its expert committee the following week to determine whether or not monkeypox should be designated a worldwide emergency.

It is believed that vaccines used to treat smallpox, another disease in the same family, are approximately 85 percent effective against monkeypox. On Wednesday, the director of WHO’s European office, Dr. Hans Kluge, expressed his alarm over the rush by certain wealthy countries to purchase additional vaccines without any discussion of purchasing supplies for Africa.

In his plea to the world’s governments, Kluge advised them “to approach monkeypox without repeating the blunders of the pandemic.” However, he would not rule out the prospect that countries such as the United Kingdom, which is presently experiencing the largest outbreak outside of Africa, might obtain vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO).

He stated that the programme was being developed for all nations and that vaccines would be distributed, for the most part, according to the epidemiological requirements of each country.

“Europe remains the hub of this rising outbreak,” Kluge observed, noting that 25 countries in Europe have reported more than 1,500 cases, which accounts for 85% of the total number of cases reported worldwide.

Experts from the African continent have questioned why the United Nations organisation in charge of public health has never suggested utilising vaccines in areas of central and West Africa where the disease is prevalent.

According to Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the place to start any immunisation should be Africa and not elsewhere.”

He stated that the absence of any immunizations to combat monkeypox on the continent, where more than 1,500 suspected cases and 72 deaths have been confirmed so far this year, was a more important worry than the clusters of largely mild disease that were being reported in wealthy countries.

Ifeanyi Nsofor, a Nigerian infectious diseases physician and consultant with the communications agency Upswell, stated that “This is an extension of the unfairness that we observed during COVID.” From 2017 till the present, Nigeria has seen hundreds of cases of monkeypox, but the country is managing the outbreak on its own, according to what he stated. “No one has brought up the subject of when vaccines might become accessible for Africa.”

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the year 2020, international health organisations moved quickly to establish COVAX, an initiative supported by the United Nations that would distribute COVID-19 vaccines. However, wealthy nations purchased up the majority of the world’s supply, and the COVAX programme fell short of many of its goals to distribute dosages to the world’s less fortunate people.

To this day, only roughly 17 percent of the population in the world’s poorest countries has been immunised against coronavirus with a single dosage of the vaccine. The same concern is held by a number of knowledgeable individuals regarding monkeypox.

“Just like with COVID, there is no clear road for how poorer nations will be able to receive vaccines,” said Brook Baker, a law professor at Northeastern University who specialises in access to pharmaceuticals. “There is no clear path for how poorer countries will be able to get vaccines.”

He issued a warning that wealthy countries that had previously committed doses would not cooperate with the WHO as it attempts to identify how many vaccine doses are currently accessible.

Baker forecast that wealthy nations would take measures to safeguard themselves while those living in developing nations would perish.

Public Citizen, an advocacy group, wrote a letter to the White House on Monday, asking whether the administration of Vice President Joe Biden would release the 20 million smallpox vaccines that the United States pledged in 2004 to the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in the event of an emergency, such as a biological attack.

When asked about the pledge, a senior official from the United States stated that the government was “exploring all alternatives” to further their efforts to stem the spread of monkeypox within the United States as well as internationally.

The official disclosed that the United States had provided the producer with more than 200,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine so that it might be made available to other countries. The official did not want to comment on whether or not the United States views the current monkeypox outbreak as an emergency that justifies the release of the 20 million vaccines that were pledged.

According to health data and analytics company Airfinity, the United States already possesses at least 1.4 million doses of vaccination and has placed an order for an additional 13 million doses. To this day, 72 instances of monkeypox have been reported in the United States.

According to Francois Balloux, an expert on infectious diseases at University College London, the immunisation efforts in wealthy countries ought to prompt a rethink of future monkeypox response tactics in Africa.

“It really should be a priority to vaccinate people in Africa, where there is a nastier strain that has actually killed people,” he said, adding that more monkeypox spillovers were likely to occur in the future. “There is a nastier strain that has actually killed people,” he said. “There is actually a deadlier strain that has actually killed people.”

According to Balloux, the issue will not be resolved by the administration of any vaccinations currently being considered in Europe.

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