Can monkeypox vaccine race again lead to vaccine inequity?
The cases for monkeypox are consistently rising across the world, triggering concerns over the impact on healthcare framework of countries as they are still reeling from the impact of Coronavirus pandemic. With World Health Organization (WHO) declaring monkeypox as a “global health emergency”, it is clear that we are not out of the woods as far as public health on the total is concerned.
The leading pharmaceutical companies and countries are scrambling to develop the monkeypox vaccine, with 35 countries contending for the access to the 16.4 million doses that exist globally. The fight is real and WHO has raised concerns that it might again lead to vaccine inequity with poorer nations being left behind, just as transpired during the coronavirus pandemic that led to catastrophic consequences.
Meg Doherty, WHO’s director of Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes has warned that there is a high possibility that high income countries might already be bidding for the vaccine supplies. “We’ll have to watch out for this,” she said. “Our mantra has been and continues to be that we want equity. If WHO needs to say that louder and stronger for those countries who are not getting access, we will continue to do that.”
“We can’t have a monkeypox response that’s only responding to the UK, Canada, the United States. We need a response that also addresses what’s happening in the DRC right now; in Nigeria where cases are going up,” she said reiterating the concerns.
Monkeypox is not a new virus – it emerged five years ago in 2017 in central African endemic zone and spread to west Africa. Since then, the region has been struggling under the outbreak with no urgency, response or WHO engagement for vaccines in those countries. Now with the cases spreading out of African continent’s six countries into 76 nations across the globe, there is an urgency from global health organizations, pharma giants and leaderships. The inequity is from grass root level up to the highest bud in the tree. The only hope is that when it comes to vaccine distribution and supply, the same mistake would not be repeated and poor and developing nations would be given an equal seat at the table.