Monkeypox was detected for the first time in humans in 1970. The first cases were recorded in Africa and since then most cases have been reported in rural and rainforest areas.
After news of the recent outbreak of monkeypox in some areas in Africa, and across the globe, foreign countries have begun to hoard the vaccines. Critics say that the reason for this is to starve the African continent of access to vaccines at the early stages of the outbreak and to sell at higher prices when there is a full-blown outbreak.
However, in defense, some analysts have said what Europe and America are doing is 'saving for the raining day', so that they are not short of vaccines in the event of a major outbreak.
According to reports, there has been a total of 48 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States. This is part of the first series of outbreaks of the virus to occur outside its endemic region of West and Central Africa.
Many more cases have emerged around the world—including 366 in the UK, 275 in Spain, and 209 in Portugal so far—and global health authorities are keeping track in order to avoid widespread contagion.
In the wake of this, rich countries are ordering more vaccines than they will arguably need. Experts who support the move say that although they may be indirectly starving Africa of the vaccines at a time they need them most, the West is being wise.
They claim that the rich countries are acting based on their lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic response that left the world in a state of severe vaccine inequality. Those who disagree say that the excuse does not hold water, claiming that the action is born out of an orchestrated plan to starve Africa, allow monkeypox to spread, and earn more from selling the vaccines at a higher price.
Bavarian Nordic, the Danish maker of the most updated monkeypox vaccine, has received so many orders for monkeypox vaccines that it raised its 2022 revenue projections to 2 billion Danish kroner ($280 million). The company had released an initial projection of $110 million.
The United States—which invested in vaccine development—has ordered half a million doses, on top of the 1.5 million it already had stockpiled. It’s the largest order received by Bavarian Nordic thus far.
For a country with only 48 cases, critics say there is more than meets the eye. They believe that while the aim may not be to sell the vaccines to Africa in the future, they would barter it for market share and economic control.
The United States isn’t the only government fighting monkeypox anxiety by stocking up on smallpox vaccines, though it is the most transparent about it. On May 25, Bavarian Nordic revealed that an undisclosed country had ordered a high number of vaccines, sufficient to cover millions of people in the short and medium-term.
Several other foreign governments are also in negotiations to make large purchases of the smallpox vaccine.
Meanwhile, monkeypox cases continue to climb in African countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged rich country governments to share information about their smallpox stockpiles and make themselves available to share doses if needed.
The call was made by the WHO emergency chief Mike Ryan. He said that while it should be possible to contain outbreaks with isolation and targeted vaccinations—for example, of health workers—many countries could still need access to some quantities of vaccines and therapeutics.
According to reports, so far, no country has made any pledges in response to the WHO’s request to share information about its vaccine stockpile or offer assistance to Africa.
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