The UN organization, on the other hand, considered that a “mass” vaccination was not recommended at this stage.
Faced with the “worrying” spread of monkeypox, reported in nearly 40 countries, the WHO will convene a meeting next week to assess whether the virus represents a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Less than a week after calling on states to “control the outbreak”, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Tuesday judged the spread of the epidemic “unusual and worrying”.
“The situation requires a coordinated response,” he said at a press conference, announcing the June 23 convening of the WHO emergency committee.
“Better understand” monkeypox
Since early May, more than 1,600 confirmed cases have been reported in 39 countries, including 32 where the disease is not endemic – and where no deaths have yet been recorded. Usually circulating in Central and West Africa, the virus is present in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, North America and South America.
Counting on the help of international experts to “better understand” monkeypox, the WHO is also considering “changing the name of the virus”, indicated Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, promising “announcements as soon as possible” on this point.
The priority nevertheless remains “to help countries contain transmission and stop the epidemic” by “proven” means such as “surveillance, contact tracing and isolation of infected patients”, he said. recalled.
A “mass” vaccination not recommended at this stage
The WHO has also tempered the growing enthusiasm for smallpox vaccines, while the European Commission announced on Tuesday a contract with the Danish laboratory Bavarian Nordic for the supply of more than 100,000 doses.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) had already indicated at the beginning of June that it was in contact “as a precaution” with this manufacturer, while hoping that it would file “as soon as possible” an application for authorization of its product against monkey pox.
The United States, which is banking on the vaccination of contact cases, has also purchased more than 300,000 doses of this serum, to supplement its stock of 100 million units of another vaccine from French Sanofi.
But “mass” vaccination is not recommended at this stage, the WHO said in interim guidelines released on Tuesday, stressing that “any decision whether or not to use vaccines should be made (…) on the basis of a risk-benefit assessment, on a case-by-case basis”.
A disease that usually heals spontaneously
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, considered it “essential that vaccines be equitably available where they are needed” and specified that his organization was working with its member states and partners to develop a mechanism for equitable access to vaccines and treatments.
An anti-smallpox drug, tecovirimat, was approved by the EMA for monkeypox earlier this year, but it is not yet widely available.
The disease usually resolves spontaneously, after two to three weeks of flu-like symptoms followed by rashes. But these clinical signs can be “mild” and difficult to identify, or even “misdiagnosed”, US authorities have warned.