Multi-country outbreak of monkeypox is a wakeup call for the world: WHO chief scientisttext_fields
Amid rising cases of monkeypox being reported across the world, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Soumya Swaminathan, said that the Monkeypox outbreak has been a wake-up call for us because we need to prepare ourselves for deadly outbreaks all the time.
In an exclusive interview with NDTV, she explained that from 1979-1980, smallpox vaccination programmes have been stopped, indicating that it might have helped the virus to steal a march on the world.
Swaminathan, however, indicated that using the smallpox vaccine for monkeypox may be useful, though more laboratory data is required.
"The vaccine we have today for smallpox, the second and third generation vaccines, but there are very limited doses. Countries have been stockpiling these vaccines in case there is a smallpox outbreak, biological or accidental," she said.
Dr. Swaminathan also said that Indian pharma companies including the Serum Institute of India could have a role in bottling, marketing and distributing the existing smallpox vaccine if it were widely available.
"We have been talking about a pandemic preparedness and one of the things is how quickly we can scale up manufacturing. India will play a very important role just because of the capacity we have," the chief scientist said.
Asked if Monkeypox could be worse than the new mutant virus of Covid, Swaminathan said there can be no straight comparison. Despite the lack of data, it is clear that Monkeypox is a different virus and will not mutate at the same speed as Covid.
She further added, "We need to do the same thing - sequencing and all. We need global sharing of data. At the moment, we should prevent it from becoming a pandemic. We have caught it early."
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 vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme also provide protection against monkeypox. But newer vaccines have been developed, of which one has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox, as per the official WHO website.
So far, four cases of Monkeypox have surfaced in India -- three from Kerala and one from Delhi.
The World Health Organisation, which declared Monkeypox a global health emergency over the weekend, said yesterday that more than 16,000 confirmed cases have been recorded in 75 countries so far.