Australia

Australian medical experts urge quick, coordinated response on monkeypox vaccine

Medical experts say the government should quickly coordinate monkeypox vaccines in Australia, after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the virus a global emergency on Sunday.
They said that countries must learn from the mistakes made during the COVID-19 pandemic in organising the swift availability of vaccines.

Professor and epidemiologist Andrew Grulich, from the Kirby Institute, said the disease is spreading in a way “we haven’t seen before”.

“While this has been spreading in parts of Africa, from transmission from a variety of mammals to humans, this is the first major epidemic where it’s been spreading in large numbers of cases from human to human,” he said.
“The declaration is really a call to action. It’s a recognition that this new condition has spread significantly around the world, and that member states of the World Health Organisation need to respond to it urgently.”
Professor Grulich said Australia should act quickly to avoid the epidemics happening in Europe.

“If we act quickly in Australia, we have an opportunity to completely avoid the epidemics that we’re seeing in much of Europe and North America.”

Professor Grulich said a monkeypox vaccine is not approved in Australia yet, and called on the Therapeutic Goods Administration to approve it “as quick as possible”.
Vice president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Moy, said the smallpox vaccine can be used to prevent monkeypox, but as smallpox was eradicated in the 1980s, there’s a shortage of that vaccine globally.
“There is a vaccine against it [monkeypox], which is essentially the smallpox vaccine and there’s actually quite a lot of different smallpox vaccines.
“But smallpox vaccines haven’t been available for general use for a long period of time. And the main reason is because smallpox is gone.
“Smallpox was a massive killer in the past, but because it’s gone, we haven’t really had need to keep a lot of vaccines except for prevention of things like biological warfare and things like that.”
He said the incubation period for patients can last weeks.
“After you do catch it, you there’s an incubation period, which can last even up to several weeks,” he said.
“But after this period, people develop high fever, severe headaches, big glands, and after that they’ll develop large poxes over their body.
“In recent cases they have involved the palms and the soles of the feet.”
Dr Moy said the declaration by the WHO should encourage governments to learn from the mistakes made during the COVID-19 pandemic around international coordination.
“If you actually read the declaration by the World Health Organisation, it’s a declaration for governments and public health officials across the world, to get their act together and work together as they did not during the COVID pandemic.”
Dr Moy told anyone in Australia who had been in contact with someone with monkeypox to call their GPs to ask for directions.
There have been more than 16,000 cases in 75 countries and five deaths in Africa in the current outbreak.
The Australian Department of Health said most people do not require treatment for monkeypox and usually make a full recovery in a few weeks.

“We are working closely with our state and territory counterparts to ensure a swift and coordinated response,” the department said in a statement on 20 July.

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