The Monkeypox outbreak has been a “wake-up call”, said World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. In an exclusive interview with NDTV, she explained that since 1979-1980 smallpox vaccination programs were stopped, indicating that this could have helped the virus steal a march on the world.
“This Monkeypox outbreak has been a wake-up call for us because we have to prepare for deadly outbreaks all the time,” she said.
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus. Its clinical presentation resembles that of smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection that was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980.
The World Health Organization website states that vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also provide protection against monkeypox. But new vaccines have been developed, one of which has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox.
Dr Swaminathan, however, advised that the use of smallpox vaccine for monkeypox may be useful although more laboratory data is needed.
“The vaccine we have today against smallpox, the second and third generation vaccines, but there are very limited doses. Countries have stockpiled these vaccines in case there is an epidemic of smallpox, biological or accidental “, she said.
One company – Bavarian Nordic, based in Denmark – has developed a vaccine against Monkeypox, but there are no efficacy data. “There is an urgent need to collect data,” she said.
Dr Swaminathan also said Indian pharmaceutical companies, including the Serum Institute of India, could play a role in bottling, marketing and distributing the existing smallpox vaccine if it were widely available.
“We’ve talked about pandemic preparedness and one of the things is how quickly we can ramp up manufacturing. India will play a very big role just because of the capacity we have. So yes, Bavarian Nordic has 16 million doses which is USA donated some of these doses to other countries…so we need to explore if we can do the fill and finish, for example at SII (Pune -based Serum Institute of India), but if we can also transfer the technology and start manufacturing in other locations,” she said.
When asked if Monkeypox could be worse than the new mutant Covid virus, Dr Swaminathan said there could be no direct comparison.
Despite the lack of data, it is clear that Monkeypox is a different virus and will not mutate at the same rate as Covid, she said.
“We need to do the same thing – sequencing and all. We need global data sharing,” she said. “For now, we should prevent it from becoming a pandemic. We caught it early,” she added.
So far, four Monkeypox cases have surfaced in India, three from Kerala and one from Delhi.
The World Health Organization, which declared Monkeypox a global health emergency over the weekend, said yesterday that more than 16,000 confirmed cases had been recorded in 75 countries so far.
#Monkeypox #wakeup #call #chief #scientist