Can smallpox vaccines prevent monkeypox? What top health bodies say
Monkeypox: With more than 16,000 cases found in over 70 countries, WHO has declared it a public health emergency.
Monkeypox is now a global health emergency even as the fight against coronavirus continues. On Saturday, the World Health Organization - while sounding the highest alert - said that risk was imminent of further spread with the virus, which was once confined to Africa, detected in over 70 countries this year as the overall global tally passes the 16,000-mark.
Two years back, coronavirus had caught the world unprepared as hospitals got overwhelmed amid soaring cases. It was not before a year into the pandemic that vaccines were developed, and the situation could be brought under control.
But the monkeypox outbreak, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said can be managed with proper engagement. A majority of cases have been reported among men who have sex with men.
According to the world health body, vaccines that have been used during the smallpox eradication programme also provided protection against monkeypox. “Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of monkeypox,” according to a factsheet put up by the WHO.
Meanwhile, according to top US medical body, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), two vaccines - licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - are available for preventing monkeypox infection – JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000.
The medical body further says that vaccines against smallpox work on monkeypox because of close link between the two viruses. “Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox,” says the CDC.
However, there is a note of caution. "ACAM2000 is administered as a live Vaccinia virus preparation that is inoculated into the skin by pricking the skin surface. Following a successful inoculation, a lesion will develop at the site of the vaccination The virus growing at the site of this inoculation lesion can be spread to other parts of the body or even to other people. Individuals who receive vaccination with ACAM2000 must take precautions to prevent the spread of the vaccine virus and are considered vaccinated within 28 days," says the CDC.
"JYNNEOSTM is administered as a live virus that is non-replicating. It is administered as two subcutaneous injections four weeks apart. There is no visible “take” and as a result, no risk for spread to other parts of the body or other people. People who receive JYNNEOS TM are not considered vaccinated until 2 weeks after they receive the second dose of the vaccine."
Amid the current outbreak, Europe is one of the worst-hit regions.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) - the EU regulator - recommends Imvanex vaccine. “Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, but less severe. Symptoms normally last between two and four weeks and generally disappear without treatment,” it underlines on its website.