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|The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is finalising arrangements for the acquisition of 100,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine from biotechnology firm Bavarian Nordic, for distribution to Latin American and Caribbean member countries.
PAHO Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, says the entity secured an agreement, through its Revolving Fund facility, with Bavarian Nordic, which is headquartered in Hellerup, Denmark, to provide the vaccines.
She said this followed requests from member countries for support in accessing doses, which were made during a Special Session of the PAHO Directing Council in August, noting that 12 such were submitted.
“We are receiving the final logistical details, such as estimates for freight and insurance, and the deliveries will be prioritised based on the epidemiological situation in countries. So partial delivery to countries that requested will start, now, in September… making our region the first World Health Organisation (WHO) region to make monkeypox vaccines available to member states,” the Director said during PAHO’s digital media briefing on Wednesday.
Dr Etienne added that “our effort will permit countries in this region to access the vaccine, even in small quantities, which would not have been possible otherwise”.
She indicated that the region of the Americas has the unenviable distinction of recording the highest number of confirmed monkeypox cases globally, since the WHO declared the disease a health emergency of international concern, in July.
“As of September 6, over 30,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in the Americas, with most cases concentrated in the United States of America, Brazil, Peru and Canada. Thus far, most confirmed cases are among men… although at least 145 cases have been reported in women, and 54 cases among people under the age of 18,” she told journalists.
Additionally, the Director said four monkeypox-related deaths have, so far, been reported in Brazil, Cuba and Ecuador.
Dr Etienne said consequent on the limited supply of vaccines available, equitable allocation needs to be guaranteed, “and this requires the prioritising of vaccine distribution to maximize the health impact”.
“So, PAHO has issued recommendations to member states to prioritise available doses for high-risk groups. With vaccines in short supply and with no effective treatment for monkeypox, countries should intensify efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in our region,” she indicated.
The Director emphasized that the vaccine will only complement the monkeypox response in the region, adding that other measures, such as engaging at-risk interests through public education, surveillance, testing, and contact tracing “remain crucial”.
“Vaccination, when available, can be deployed as a preventive measure to persons who may have been exposed, such as household members and health workers; and let’s note that PAHO and WHO are not recommending mass vaccination at this time,” she further said.
Dr Etienne assured that PAHO is continuing to follow the monkeypox outbreak and to work with countries “to ensure that we can contain this outbreak and give the best advice to our member states”.