‘We need to get doses out’: Virologist stresses importance of monkeypox vaccine

With the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a global health threat, one virologist is stressing the importance of getting vaccines to those who are most at risk.

“We need to get doses out,” said Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor and Canada research chair at the University of Manitoba, in an interview on Wednesday.

Kindrachuk’s statement comes after Manitoba expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine last week. However, on Monday, the province tweeted that all available monkeypox vaccine appointments are booked.

The tweet noted that the province expects to be able to make more appointments available soon.

Kindrachuk said there are limited doses of the vaccine.

“We’ve already seen the FDA move towards a different strategy to try and do some dose sparing based on older data from the clinical trials,” he said.

“We haven’t heard anything about that in Canada yet, but that may occur.”

WHERE DID MONKEYPOX COME FROM?

Kindrachuk explained that it is notoriously difficult to pin down where pox viruses come from.

He added that monkeypox was first identified in 1958 in non-human primates, and was then found in humans in 1970.

“We’ve been dealing with this virus for the better part of over five decades now and certainly it’s been considered a global health threat probably for the better part of the last 30 years, but we haven’t seen a lot of sustained investment in trying to reduce cases in endemic regions, unfortunately,” he said.

Kindrachuk said the 2022 outbreak isn’t the first time the virus has left the continent of Africa, as the virus was in the United States in 2003.

He said researchers are now working to try to identify how the current outbreak started.

“Was it one single event, that introduction, that came from West or Central Africa then moved into a different region of the world and then we started seeing an onset of cases?” he said.

“Or did we see different distributions in different regions of the world and we have this transmission that was occurring underneath the radar for a finite period of time before cases got to a point that we started to recognize them?”

WHO IS GETTING MONKEYPOX?

Kindrachuk noted monkeypox is predominately being reported in those within the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community.

“The cases continue to be overwhelmingly found within males usually within the age of 30 to 40, and those that tend to identify as being men who have sex with men,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the virus is only limited to those populations.”

However, Kindrachuk said there is enough data to show that the virus can affect anyone and that those in younger age groups are at risk of more severe disease.

As for symptoms, Kindrachuk said it starts as a fever or just feeling generally unwell. Then usually within a few days, a person will develop a rash or lesion.

“In the past, these lesions have been very synchronous in their development. We’ve seen an over-representation in the face, the arms, the legs, the trunk of the body,” he said.

“Here, we’re not necessarily seeing that pattern. We’re seeing certainly more so in the genital region, but also very asynchronous.”

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace.

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