NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa still does not have a single dose of the monkeypox vaccine even though it’s the only continent to have documented deaths from the disease that’s newly declared a global emergency, its public health agency announced Thursday.
“Let us get vaccines onto the continent,” the acting head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell, said in a weekly media briefing. He described a situation where the African continent of 1.3 billion people is again being left behind in access to doses in an uncomfortable echo of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Less than a week ago, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global health emergency.
To date, more than 20,000 cases have been reported in 77 countries. More than 2,100 monkeypox cases have been recorded in 11 African countries and 75 people have died, the Africa CDC director said.
Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
Now the global race is on to obtain monkeypox vaccine doses. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, has secured the purchase of 160,000 doses of vaccines for the disease. On Wednesday, U.S. health regulators said nearly 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will soon be available for distribution after what they described as weeks of delays.
Such delays are far more pronounced on the African continent, where the painful disease has been endemic in some countries for years.
Ogwell said the Africa CDC has engaged with international partners in attempts to obtain vaccines, and while he said “good news” is expected in the coming days, “we cannot be able to give you a timeline.”
Even doses of the smallpox vaccine, which has shown effectiveness against monkeypox, are not available in Africa, Ogwell said.
“The solutions need to be global in nature,” he said, in a warning to the international community. “If we’re not safe, the rest of the world is not safe.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the global hoarding of vaccine doses were a jolt to African leaders, who quickly joined together in an unprecedented effort to obtain doses and establish the production of more vaccines on the continent.
Now, to their dismay,…