Preparations for vaccination against monkeypox begin in Africa as it reported 1,597 cases and 66 deaths in 2022 so far.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the process of procuring thousands of monkeypox tests for Africa but is not recommending mass vaccination at this stage, its Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti has said.
She added that the continent should be prepared for vaccination should the need arise.
The decision to start preparations comes as new cases have been reported.
This year, the continent has documented 1,597 suspected cases of monkeypox, with 66 deaths, the acting director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, said on Thursday.
Monkeypox, a mild viral infection, is endemic in 11 African countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria.
There is no known vaccine currently, but the smallpox vaccine has been shown to offer up to 85 percent protection against monkeypox.
Health administrators now believe that when a smallpox vaccination campaign starts to contain monkeypox worldwide, it should begin in Africa.
“Our position is that vaccination is an important tool and needs to start here in Africa,” Ouma said during a weekly briefing by the Africa CDC.
“Here … the burden is larger, the risk higher and the geographical spread is also broader,” he said.
The confirmed cases in Africa were reported from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, DRC, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ouma said.
But Europe remains the epicentre of the global monkeypox outbreak, according to the WHO.
“Europe remains the epicentre of this escalating outbreak, with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases, or 85 percent of the global total,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a news conference on Wednesday.
The WHO is due to convene an emergency committee next week to assess whether the monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.