NAIROBI – Africa’s public health body says it hopes Mpox vaccines will finally arrive on the continent “in another two weeks, tops” after months of seeking doses.
The doses will go first to countries with acute need and the largest overall burden, the acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell, told journalists on Thursday. Congo and Nigeria have had the highest numbers of Mpox.
In July, the World Health Organization designated Mpox as a global emergency amid outbreaks in Europe and North America and appealed to the world to support African countries. But no rich countries shared vaccines or treatments with the African continent even as cases in other regions subsided.
Mpox has sickened people in parts of West and Central Africa since the 1970s but it wasn’t until the disease triggered the outbreaks in Europe and North America that public health officials even thought to use vaccines. Rich countries rushed to buy nearly all the world’s supply.
In early December, the Africa CDC said the continent was set to receive its first batch of 50,000 Mpox vaccines as a donation from South Korea and would be used first for health workers and people living in the hardest-hit areas.
Mpox, formerly known as monkeypox but renamed last year because of racism concerns, is a rare disease caused by infection with a virus that’s in the same family as the one that causes smallpox. It is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals, but it was not known to spread easily among people.
Since 2000, Africa has reported about 1,000 to 2,000 suspected Mpox cases every year but saw more than 3,000 last year.
Ogwell said the current outbreak “has been quite stable, not been changing a lot.”
Outside of Africa, nearly all cases have been in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.