Fact check: There is a lot of misinformation about monkeys

A special chamber for the isolation of people suspected of having smallpox, inside the Kasturba Infectious Diseases Hospital in Mumbai, India, May 24, 2022. Divyakant Solanki, EPA-EFE / file

The recent emergence of hundreds of cases of smallpox around the world has led to a flood of misinformation on the Internet, many of which are based on conspiracy theories that have been circulating since the beginning of the Kowid-19 pandemic.

AFP Fact Check Africa has reviewed three claims that have emerged in the month since monkey disease began to be registered outside the endemic western and central regions.

– Not a side effect of the vaccine –

Social media reports shared around the world have incorrectly described the recent monkey disease as a “profound effect” of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The claim is that the AstraZeneca coating used a chimpanzee adenovirus vector.

But health experts told AFP that the idea had “virtually no basis” because the viruses belonged to different families – the poxvirus for monkeys and the adenovirus for the Covid vaccine.

Professor Eom Jung-shik, an infectious disease expert at Gil University’s Gil Medical Center, said the vaccine “cannot produce new viruses in humans and can cause diseases such as ape-smallpox.”

Adenovirus is a vector of the vaccine, which means that it is only a means of transmitting genetic instructions to the body to stimulate the production of spike protein, similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This triggers an immune response so the body can fight the real infection.

As with other viral vector vaccines, chimpanzee adenovirus is not transmitted to humans and has been modified to prevent replication.

According to Professor Yu Jin-hong, an epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Korea, AstraZeneca’s claim “seems to stem from the idea that chimpanzees are generally called apes, but this is a very ignorant rumor that has no basis in fact.”

Smallpox was first identified in 1958 in a group of macaques under study, but it is not the only animal that has contracted the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, rodents are the most likely natural reservoir for smallpox.

– Pfizer monkey does not have smallpox vaccine –

On social media posts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently confirmed that it has approved a new vaccine against smallpox from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which developed the first available Covid vaccine.

It’s a lie; The only vaccine to prevent monkeys in the United States was approved by the FDA in 2019 and Pfizer does not release it.

FDA spokeswoman Abby Capobianco told AFP that the vaccine, called Jynneos, was “licensed by the FDA to prevent smallpox in monkeys or monkeys over the age of 18.”

Jynneos is not a new vaccine – the FDA approved it in September 2019.

Javneos-based pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic announced on May 18, 2022, that the U.S. government had ordered $ 119 million in frozen dried doses.

Jynneos is the only FDA-approved vaccine against smallpox, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the smallpox vaccine has been shown to be 85 percent effective in preventing the disease.

Pfizer told AFP the company did not have a vaccine against smallpox.

– False Canadian shingles claim –

On social media posts, Canadian officials shared a photo of an article on Canada’s CTV News that reported that 95 percent of monkeys surveyed had cancer.

However, Rob Duffy told France Press, the communications manager of Bell Media, CTV News’ parent company, that the network had “never published such an incident and that the screenshot does not show the actual CTV News article.”

Isaac Bogoch, a professor at Temerty Medical School at the University of Toronto, said some of the symptoms may be similar to those of cancer and monkeys, but they are not caused by the same virus.

“There may be some recurrences in their clinical manifestations,” he told AFP.


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