According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox continues to spread around the world, with the number of cases increasing by 20% in the last week.
According to the WHO, infections have increased by 7,500 to more than 35,000 cases in 92 countries, but almost all of the reported cases are in Europe and the Americas. So far, 12 people have been reported dead.
According to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the vast majority of patients are men who have sex with men. Global supplies of the U.S. monkeypox vaccine, known as Ginneos, remain limited, and data on its effectiveness in the current outbreak are sparse, Tedros said. Jynneos is manufactured by the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic.
“We are concerned that the inequitable access to vaccines seen during the Covid-19 pandemic will be repeated, leaving the poorest behind,” Tedros said at a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
Although data on the effectiveness of the vaccine is limited, there are reports of people vaccinated after being exposed to the virus still getting sick, as well as people who became infected after receiving the vaccine as a preventive measure, said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO technical director for monkeypox.
The monkeypox vaccine can be given after exposure to reduce the risk of severe disease or to reduce the risk of transmission.
“We know from the beginning that this vaccine will not be a silver bullet, that it will not meet all the expectations that have been placed on it, and that in this context we do not have any efficacy or effectiveness data.” Lewis told reporters.
The reports aren’t surprising, Lewis said, but underscore the importance of people taking other precautions, such as reducing the number of sexual partners and avoiding group or casual sex during the current outbreak. It’s also important to know whether people’s immune systems reach their peak response two weeks after the second dose, he said.
“People will have to wait until the vaccine can produce a maximal immune response, but we don’t yet know what the overall efficacy will be,” Lewis said. A small study in the 1980s showed that the smallpox vaccines of the time were 85% effective in preventing monkeypox. Jynneos was approved in the U.S. in 2019 to treat chickenpox and monkeypox, both of which belong to the same family of viruses.
“The fact that we are starting to see some cases of progression is also very important information, because it shows that the vaccine is not 100% effective in any situation,” he said.
The WHO has seen some mutations in the monkeypox virus, but it’s unclear what those changes mean for the pathogen’s behavior and how it affects the human immune response, Lewis said.
In the current epidemic, the first known case of an animal contracting monkeypox from humans was recently reported in Paris. A couple infected their pet dog with the virus. The couple said they shared their bed with a dog. Public health officials have advised people with monkeypox to isolate themselves from their pets.
It is not unusual or unexpected for a pet to become infected, the doctor said. Mike Ryan, Head of WHO’s Emergencies Programme. Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO’s head of pandemic response, said this does not mean dogs can transmit the virus to humans.
According to Lewis, there is a theoretical risk of rodents infesting the waste, and proper waste management is important to avoid infecting animals outside of people’s households. Historically, monkeypox jumped from rodents and other small mammals to humans in West and Central Africa.
“What we don’t want to see is a disease going from one type to another and then staying in that type,” Ryan said. In this scenario, the virus can evolve rapidly, posing a serious threat to public health.
“I don’t expect the virus to develop any faster than a human than a dog,” he said.