It is possible to eliminate the monkeypox outbreak in Europe, World Health Organization officials said on Tuesday, highlighting evidence that case counts are slowing in a handful of countries.
There are encouraging signs of a sustained week-on-week decline in the onset of cases in many European countries, including France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Britain, as well as a slowdown in some parts of the United States, despite scarce vaccine supplies.
“We believe we can eliminate sustained human-to-human transmission of monkeypox in the (European) region,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge. “To move towards elimination…we need to urgently step up our efforts.”
The rollout of Bavarian Nordic’s monkeypox vaccine has been affected by the limited supply of the shot, which is also approved to prevent smallpox, although regulators are taking steps to stretch out existing stocks.
U.S., European Union and British regulators have backed changing the way the vaccine is administered by injecting a smaller amount of the shot intradermally, which increases by fivefold the doses that can be used from one vial.
In addition to the vaccine supply crunch, given the time it takes to deploy the vaccine and for it to take effect, the significant factors behind the slowdown appear to be earlier detection, which leads to patients isolating themselves sooner, and behavioral changes, Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer, and monkeypox incident manager at WHO/Europe told a briefing.
“We do have some pretty good anecdotal evidence that people – particularly men who have sex with men who are in particular risk groups – are much more informed about the disease.”
More than 47,600 confirmed cases in 90 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have been reported since early May. The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.