Monkeypox continues to spread around the world with cases rising 20% in the past week, according to the World Health Organization.
Infections increased by nearly 7,500 to more than 35,000 total cases in 92 countries, but nearly all reported cases are in Europe and the Americas, according to WHO data. Twelve deaths have been reported so far.
The vast majority of patients are still men who have sex with men, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanaom Ghebreyesus. Global supply of the monkeypox vaccine, called Jynneos in the US, remains limited and data on its effectiveness in the current outbreak is scarce, Tedros said. Jynneos is manufactured by the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic.
“We remain concerned that the unequal access to vaccines that we saw during the Covid-19 pandemic will be repeated and the poorest will be left behind,” Tedros said at a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
While data on the vaccine’s effectiveness is limited, there are reports of breakthrough cases in which people who received the injections still get sick after exposure to the virus, as well as individuals who become infected after receiving the vaccine as a preventive measure, it said. dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead for monkey pox.
The monkeypox vaccine can be administered after exposure to reduce the risk of serious illness or before exposure to reduce the risk of infection.
“We knew from the outset that this vaccine would not be a panacea, that it would not live up to all the expectations placed on it, and that we have no hard efficacy or effectiveness data in this context.” Lewis told reporters.
These reports aren’t surprising, Lewis said, but emphasize the importance of individuals taking other precautions, such as reducing their number of sexual partners and avoiding group or casual sex during the current outbreak. It’s also important for people to know that their immune system doesn’t reach its maximum response until two weeks after the second dose, she said.
“People have to wait for the vaccine to generate a maximum immune response, but we don’t know yet what the overall effectiveness will be,” Lewis said. A small study from the 1980s found that the smallpox vaccines available at the time were 85% effective in preventing monkeypox. Jynneos was approved in the US in 2019 to treat both smallpox and monkeypox, which belong to the same virus family.
“The fact that we are starting to see some breakthrough cases is also very important information, because it tells us that the vaccine is not 100% effective under any circumstances,” she said.
The WHO has observed some mutations in the monkeypox virus, although it’s not clear what these changes mean for the pathogen’s behavior and how it affects the human immune response, Lewis said.
The first known case of an animal catching monkeypox from humans during the current outbreak was recently reported in Paris. A captive dog was infected by a couple who became ill with the virus. The couple reported sharing their bed with the dog. Public health officials have advised people who are sick with monkey pox to isolate themselves from their pets.
A pet becoming infected isn’t unusual or unexpected, says Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergency program. dr. Sylvie Briand, head of pandemic preparedness at WHO, said this does not mean dogs can transmit the virus to humans.
Lewis said there is a theoretical risk of rodents sniffing through waste and catching the virus, and it’s important to manage waste properly to avoid infecting animals outside human households. Historically, monkey pox has spread from rodents and other small mammals to humans in western and central Africa.
“What we don’t want to see happen is diseases go from one species to another and then stay in that species,” Ryan said. In this scenario, the virus could develop rapidly, posing a dangerous risk to public health.
“I don’t expect the virus to develop faster in one dog than in one human,” he said.