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WHO recommends targeted Monkeypox vaccination to high-risk persons

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended targeted vaccination for persons exposed to someone with monkeypox, and for people at high risk of exposure.

It said such persons included health workers, some laboratory workers, and those with multiple sexual partners. However, it added that mass vaccination against monkeypox is not recommended.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.

It is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, contaminated materials with the virus, body fluids, hugging and kissing, and respiratory droplets.

A statement copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said one smallpox vaccine, called MVA-BN, had been approved in Canada, the European Union and the U.S. for use against monkeypox.

It said two other vaccines, LC16 and ACAM2000, were also being considered for use against monkeypox.

“However, we still lack data on the effectiveness of vaccines for monkeypox, or how many doses might be needed, for this reason we urge all countries that are using vaccines to collect and share critical data on their effectiveness,” it stated.

The statement said the WHO was developing a research framework which countries could use to generate the data they needed to better understand how effective the vaccines were in preventing both infection and disease, and how to use them most effectively.

It emphasized that vaccination would not give instant protection against infection or disease and could take several weeks.

“That means those vaccinated should continue to take measures to protect themselves, by avoiding close contact, including sex, with others who have or are at risk of having monkeypox,” it said.

It said despite the challenges with the availability of Monkeypox vaccines, there were about 16 million doses of MVA-BN globally. Most were in bulk form, adding that it would take several months to “fill and finish” into vials that were ready to use.

Several countries with monkeypox cases have secured supplies of the MVA-BN vaccine, and WHO is in contact with other countries to understand their supply needs, it stated.

The WHO urged countries with smallpox vaccines to share them with countries which did not have and called equitable access to vaccines for all individuals and communities affected by monkeypox, and in all regions.

It said, while vaccines were a valuable tool, surveillance, diagnosis and risk reduction remain central to preventing transmission and stopping the outbreak.

According to the WHO, Monkeypox is an outbreak that could be stopped, if countries, communities and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups.

It said the best way to reduce the risk of exposure was by reducing men who had sex with men, the number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partner to enable follow-up if needed.

It said the focus for all countries must be engaging and empowering communities of men who had sex with men to reduce the risk of infection and onward transmission, to provide care for those infected, and to safeguard human rights and dignity.

It noted that stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus and can fuel the outbreak.

“As we have seen with COVID-19, misinformation and disinformation can spread rapidly online, so we call on social media platforms, tech companies and news organizations to work with us to prevent and counter harmful information,” it added.

It said, “although 98 per cent of cases so far where among men who have sex with men, anyone exposed can get monkeypox, which is why WHO recommends that countries take action to reduce the risk of transmission to other vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed.”

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