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Govt seeks monkeypox vaccine

BANGKOK: The government is seeking to secure a supply of smallpox vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) to bolster the public’s immunity in the event of a viral outbreak, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Thursday (May 26).

By Bangkok Post

Friday 27 May 2022, 09:35AM

Photo: via Bangkok Post

Photo: via Bangkok Post

Although Thailand has yet to record or detect any case of monkeypox infection, the increasing number of foreign arrivals in the country will heighten the risk of contagion, he said, reports the Bangkok Post.

Mr Anutin made the request on May 5 in a discussion with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus on the sidelines of the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Separately, Prof Dr Somsak Lolekha, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatricians of Thailand and the Paediatric Society of Thailand, said monkeypox won’t become a major public health risk in the kingdom as a large part of the population have been vaccinated against smallpox.

Past studies from Africa suggest the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Immunity induced by the smallpox vaccine can last up to 80 years after vaccination,” Prof Dr Somsak said.

Despite the benefits, Thailand stopped mass administration of the vaccine once the WHO declared the disease eradicated in 1980, because live-attenuated vaccines ‒ such as the smallpox shot ‒ have been known to cause severe, sometimes deadly, adverse effects, especially among those who are immuno-compromised, he added.

As such there is no need for the country to stockpile monkeypox vaccines, he said citing the recommendations jointly-issued by five medical organisations.

Dr Chakrarat Pittayawonganon, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said no monkeypox cases have been detected in Thailand’s monkey population.

As wild primates, rodents and small mammals endemic to Africa are known vectors of the monkeypox virus, all imported animals from the region must be checked and registered with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, he said.

Meanwhile, DDC specialist Dr Taweesap Siraprapasiri suggested that people exercise extra caution when they gather in crowded public places to avoid infections, pointing out a major cluster was detected after a pride festival in Spain.

Those who attended the event are advised to get tested for monkeypox for the sake of disease control, Dr Taweesap said.

More than 200 cases worldwide

The number of confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide has reached 219 outside of countries where it is endemic, according to an update released by the European Union’s disease agency, reports AFP.

More than a dozen countries where monkeypox is unusual, mostly in Europe, have reported at least one confirmed case, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in an epidemiological note released Wednesday night.

“This is the first time that chains of transmission are reported in Europe without known epidemiological links to West or Central Africa, where this disease is endemic,” the note said.

It added that most of the cases were detected in young men, self-identifying as men who have sex with men.

The United Kingdom ‒ where monkeypox’s unusual appearance was first detected in early May ‒ currently has the largest bulk of confirmed cases, 71.

It is followed by Spain with 51 cases and Portugal, 37.

Outside of Europe, Canada has 15 and the United States has nine.

The total number of cases reported Wednesday has increased fivefold since its first count on May 20, when the EU agency said there were 38 cases.

Contagion risk is “very low”, the ECDC said earlier this week, but warned that people who have had multiple sexual partners ‒ regardless of sexual orientation ‒ are more at risk.

“The clinical presentation is generally described to be mild,” it said, adding that there has been no deaths.

Monkeypox ‒ a less severe disease compared to its cousin smallpox ‒ is endemic in 11 countries in West and Central Africa.

It spreads by a bite or direct contact with an infected animal’s blood, meat or bodily fluids, and initial symptoms include a high fever before quickly developing into a rash.

People infected with it also get a chickenpox-like rash on their hands and face.

No treatment exists but the symptoms usually clear up after two to four weeks, and it is not usually fatal.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the emerging disease lead for the World Health Organization, said Monday that monkeypox is a “containable situation”.

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