A panel of scientists and activists at the AIDS 2022 conference in Montreal urged governments around the world over the weekend to increase resources to manage monkeypox outbreaks.
The call came as international experts met on Sunday to discuss the need to avoid repeating mistakes made in the first HIV response.
Marina Klein, research director and professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and the service of chronic viral diseases at McGill University in Quebec, said that Montreal could lead by example as it becomes crucial to improve the global response. at monkeypox.
“There was a very quick response in Montreal to deal with the rise in infections, with the implementation of a very liberal, open and accessible vaccine,” Klein said in an interview on Sunday.
Montreal was the initial epicenter of outbreaks in Canada, with around 360 confirmed cases as of July 29. There are now over 800 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country.
But the rate of infections began to level off and plateaued in Montreal, Klein said.
“Some of that came directly from the Department of Public Health but also with community involvement, which was key in educating about the importance of the vaccine,” she said.
Klein, however, said she’s concerned that other provinces, particularly Saskatchewan, don’t have the same ease in connecting with vulnerable communities.
“Although there are only two cases to date, we know that in Saskatchewan there have been many challenges, both with HIV and sexually transmitted infections, particularly among vulnerable populations, including Indigenous communities,” Klein said.
She stressed the importance of community engagement and having a ready-to-use vaccine response, but also the need to study the extent of monkeypox transmission.
“We reacted quickly, but nowhere in the world reacted quickly enough to fix this problem and get rid of it in the short time we needed,” she said.
“Now we’re going to have to shift gears and think about how to control this in the long term.”
His criticisms were echoed by several other speakers during Sunday’s conference.
Keletso Makofane, a public health researcher at Harvard University, called the global response to monkeypox “worse than the initial response to HIV”.
More than 19,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in recent months in 78 countries, mostly in men who have sex with men.
“We knew enough to have done much better to contain this thing,” Makofane said in an interview, adding that general fatigue from the fight against COVID-19 has made the monkeypox response slower than it was. shouldn’t have been.
Makofane also decried thousands of vaccine doses sitting in Denmark as the number of cases continues to climb.
Unlike the many companies that have made COVID-19 vaccines, Bavarian Nordic in Denmark is the only manufacturer of the vaccine used against monkeypox.
“It’s outrageous and it’s worse than HIV in the sense that we have the tools to respond to it,” Makofane said.
Dr Meg Doherty, director of the World Health Organization’s global programs on HIV, hepatitis and STIs, told participants that an equitable approach is crucial to ensure that tools are available not only in wealthier countries, but also in Africa where monkeypox is traditionally present.
“Thirty-five countries have had access or have requested access to the vaccines … is there a risk that the countries submitting (requests) for access are from rich countries? It’s a very possible risk,” Doherty said Sunday.
“We want fairness. We can’t have a response to monkeypox that only responds to the UK, Canada and the US.”
The AIDS 2022 international conference – July 29 through Tuesday – is expected to attract more than 9,000 delegates from around the world, with another 2,000 registered to participate remotely.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 31, 2022.
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