European Union (EU) has approved the use of a smallpox vaccine ‘Imvanex,’ for treatment of monkeypox.
A statement released, Monday, by pharmaceutical firm, Bavarian Nordic, said the European Commission has extended the marketing authorisation for the company’s smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, to include protection from monkeypox.
“The approval … is valid in all European Union Member States as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.”
The European Commission’s authorisation follows a recommendation by the EU’s medicines watchdog, the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
However, under EU law the EMA has no authority to actually permit marketing in the different countries in the bloc.
The European Commission, which is the authorising body, takes legally binding decisions based on EMA’s recommendation.
Imvanex has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox.
It was also considered a potential vaccine for monkeypox because of the similarity between the monkeypox virus and the smallpox virus.
Monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
The first symptoms of monkeypox are fever, headaches, muscle pain and back pain during the course of five days.
Chief Executive Officer Paul Chaplin said the availability of an approved vaccine “can significantly improve nations’ readiness to fight emerging diseases, but only through investments and structured planning of the biological preparedness”.
It would be recalled that last Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the monkeypox virus outbreak across the world as a global health emergency.
Declaring the monkeypox as global pandemic, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, said the disease is now designated as a public health emergency.
The monkeypox disease was previously considered an African traditional endemic outbreak by the world health body.
The disease is a rare viral zoonotic infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans that occur sporadically, primarily in remote villages of Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests.
As at July 8, this year, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had confirmed 84 fresh cases of the disease in the country, as two more fatalities have been recorded bringing the total number of death from the infection to three in the country.
The agency noted that three deaths have been recorded from the beginning of the year to July 3.
With this status, monkeypox now shares similar status with other global health emergencies like the Covid-19, flu, birdflu, and other health pandemics.
“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” said Dr. Tedros.
According to the WHO chief, the monkeypox outbreak is spreading quickly, presenting a ‘clear risk of further international spread.’
Public health emergency declaration still comes even though the WHO emergency committee had failed to reach a consensus on whether to issue or not to issue the emergency declaration.
Issuing a Public Health Emergency of International Concern enhances coordination and sharing of resources and information among nations.
Though Monkeypox vaccines are available, their supplies are very limited.
Since early May 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported from countries where the disease is not endemic, and continue to be reported in several endemic countries.
Most confirmed cases with travel history reported travel to countries in Europe and North America, rather than West or Central Africa where the monkeypox virus is endemic. This is the first time that many monkeypox cases and clusters have been reported concurrently in non-endemic and endemic countries in widely disparate geographical areas.
Most reported cases so far have been identified through sexual health or other health services in primary or secondary health-care facilities and have involved mainly, but not exclusively, men who have sex with men.
In Nigeria, the NCDC, in its latest monkeypox situation report for Week 26, confirmed that no fewer than 245 suspected cases of the disease have been reported in the country. Three deaths were recorded.
“Overall and since the re-emergence of monkeypox from September 2017 to July 3, 2022, a total of 757 suspected cases have been reported from 34 states in the country.”
Currently, there are over 16,000 cases of the monkeypox globally, with 2,891 cases confirmed in the United States.
According to the WHO, monkeypox outbreak has affected some 16,000 people in 75 countries.