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Monkeypox vaccination campaign not necessary in SA, says NICD

Picture: Frank Merino/ Pexels

Picture: Frank Merino/ Pexels

Published May 26, 2022

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Cape Town - Since mid-May this year, a multinational outbreak of monkeypox has been reported, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 240 cases have been recorded in 19 countries.

Scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said they don’t expect cases to increase exponentially and that a mass vaccination campaign is not necessary at this point in time.

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Executive director of the NICD, Professor Adrian Puren, said during a media briefing that while no cases have been reported in South Africa, they are preparing for a possible importation of monkeypox.

“We know that Johannesburg is a hub of international travel, so I think that is one of our risks that we have, and there will likely be importation.

“Given the number of cases, we do not expect them to explode. At this time, we don’t need a mass vaccination campaign,” said Puren.

For the past week, South Africa has slowly been exiting what health experts have referred to as the “unofficial” fifth Covid-19 wave driven by the Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.

Puren said their agenda is to prioritise vaccinations for diseases and infections currently circulating in the country.

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“We don’t foresee that there will be an establishment of this disease in South Africa. I don’t foresee monkeypox becoming endemic in terms of the explosive nature that we’ve seen of Covid-19. They are two very different viruses. We have to approach them differently,” he said.

Dr Jacquiline Weyer from the Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases said the best way for South Africa to deal with the monkeypox outbreak is to maintain the “classical containment approach”.

This includes identifying cases, monitoring and isolating any confirmed cases to interrupt the chain of transmission.

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“With monkeypox, it's not a virus that’s highly transmissible. It's not like Covid-19 at all, and we can get ahead of the outbreak by test tracing, monitoring and isolation of cases. I think we can do that, and we can do it with vaccines,” said Weyer.

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