As Monkeypox’s rapid spread continues, even with the recent declaration from the World Health Organization as a global emergency, the second in over two years after COVID-19, overall response has been slow and criticized. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of this past Wednesday, July 26, the U.S. has a reported 4,600 cases of Monkeypox.
Amid weeks of delays, the U.S. signed off on 800,000 additional vaccines to be received and ready for distribution. The announcement comes after many believe authorities have missed the crucial window to contain. As it sounds like a significant amount, clinics in New York and San Francisco, both major cities with high numbers of cases, have said they do not have enough vaccines to meet the heavy demand.
However, Africa has been the mainland hit hardest with high cases and being the only continent to have documented deaths from the disease. Monkeypox has been endemic in many of its nations for decades and now as it poses a global threat, when it is needed most desperately, Africa cannot get vaccines as they also continue to fight off the COVID-19 virus, more is dropped on their shoulders.
According to the public health agency in Africa, they have not received a single dose of the Monkeypox vaccine even as W.H.O. declared it a global emergency. In similar circumstances to the COVID-19 pandemic, the continent home to over 1.3 billion people, is being neglected of much needed vaccines.
Ahmed Ogwell, the acting head of Africa’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a weekly media briefing, “Let us get vaccines onto the continent.” Additionally, Ogwell did announce Africa’s CDC was in contact with international partners in hopes of obtaining vaccines with even “good news” to come in the next few days but concluded that “we cannot be able to give you a timeline.”
W.H.O. has mentioned that they were creating a vaccine sharing system where countries each would give the organization vaccines to then be allocated fairly amongst those countries that have been neglected previously like the African countries, but as few details have been shared about the project since the initial announcement, and no countries announcing they would participate, there is no present guarantee that those nations would be prioritized.
The Africa CDC Director has reported that there are more than 20,000 cases in 77 countries. Africa currently has over 2,100 of those cases in 11 nations with over 75 deaths. Ogwell said that even vaccines for Smallpox that have shown effectiveness against Monkeypox are not available to them.
He warned the international community that “Solutions need to be global in nature…If we’re not safe, the rest of the world is not safe.”
Even after wealthier countries displayed selfish behavior with the hoarding of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, as similar actions ensue during this Monkeypox outbreak, the African continent is in shock.