Tedros, speaking at a regular press briefing in Geneva, said: “The primary focus for all countries must be to ensure they are ready for monkeypox, and to stop transmission using effective public health tools, including enhanced disease surveillance, careful contact tracing, tailored risk communication and community engagement, and risk reduction measures.”
Global supplies of vaccines capable of treating monkeypox are currently limited, as is data about their effectiveness. The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that it is in contact with vaccine manufacturers, as well as countries and organisations willing to share their available vaccine doses, with the aim of coordinating a response to the virus.
However, Tedros said: “We remain concerned that the inequitable access to vaccines we saw during the Covid-19 pandemic will be repeated, and that the poorest will continue to be left behind.”
The WHO reported that monkeypox infections continue to rise globally, with over 35,000 cases now reported across 92 countries and territories as of Wednesday 17 August. However, death rates remain low, with just 12 confirmed deaths due to the virus reported. The majority of cases have been reported in Europe and the Americas, primarily among ‘men who have sex with men’.
“Almost 7,500 cases were reported last week, a 20 per cent increase over the previous week, which was also 20 per cent more than the week before,” said Tedros.
Covid cases also remain a concern for the WHO
Tedros also warned that alongside monkeypox, Covid-19 cases have also increased by 35 per cent over the last four weeks, resulting in around 15,000 Covid-related deaths in the past week.
“Fifteen thousand deaths a week is completely unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said. “But none of us is helpless – please get vaccinated if you are not, and if you need a booster, get one,” he added.
Omicron remains the dominant variant, with its BA.5 sub-variant making up over 90 per cent of genome sequences shared in the last month.
Tedros also said that it was becoming harder to monitor how the virus was changing, due to a 90 per cent fall in the number of sequences shared per week since the beginning of the year – while the number of countries sharing sequences has also dropped by 75 per cent.
He warned that the rate of transmissions was likely to increase as winter approached in the northern hemisphere, and people spent more time indoors.