From COVID-19 to Monkeypox
And then there’s climate change…
Stephanie Sutton | | Opinion
It’s been a busy time for infectious disease vaccine news in Europe. Recently, Valneva’s VLA2001 inactivated and adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine was granted marketing authorization for use in people aged 18–50 years, and authorization of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine was recommended by the EMA to be expanded for use in adolescents aged 12–17 years.
COVID-19 fears have subsided in many countries, although there are still significant case numbers being reported across the globe. But it’s not the only infectious disease now in the spotlight in the western world; Monkeypox cases are on the rise. Almost 800 cases have been reported in the UK and case numbers increasing in Spain, Germany, Portugal, and other European countries. As of June 27, 142 cases had also been confirmed in the US. The WHO has recommended that its member states consider developing recommendations for vaccines.
The US has already been procuring vaccines and announced a vaccination strategy. In Europe, the EMA says it has commenced a review of the Imvanex smallpox vaccine to assess if its use can be extended to protect people from monkeypox. However, as Imvanex has limited availability right now, the EMA’s emergency task force has recommended that Jynneos – a vaccine approved in the US – could be used to offer protection against monkeypox. The agency has also provided import advice.
Monkeypox is mainly found in parts of western and central Africa, and thought to be carried by a number of animals including non-human primates, Gambian pouch rats, and tree squirrels. It can also be transmitted by humans from close contact with respiratory secretions or skin lesions. The WHO notes that chains of transmission have been increasing in recent years – perhaps due to the fact that smallpox vaccinations are no longer given. The smallpox vaccine is thought to offer some protection from monkeypox as the viruses are closely related
The world is nervous after the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, the monkeypox outbreak is not expected to become another pandemic, but it’s possible that it may have been circulating for some time. According to the WHO, “The unexpected appearance of monkeypox and the wide geographic spread of cases indicate that the monkeypox virus might have been circulating below levels detectable by the surveillance systems and sustained human-to-human transmission might have been undetected for a period of time.”
If needed more evidence, monkeypox shows how quickly new outbreaks can occur. Experts have also speculated that climate change could lead to an increase in the spread of zoonotic diseases (due to rising temperatures, deforestation, and animals moving closer to humans), as well as diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria and dengue.
Not exactly a rosy picture of the future – but perhaps a reminder to keep vaccine development very much on the front burner…
Teaser Image Credit: NIAID (2022)