South Africa Waits for Mpox Vaccines After Confirming Seven ‘Severe Cases’

Seven cases of “severe Mpox” have been confirmed in South Africa, and two of those diagnosed have since died. All cases involve men in their thirties living with co-morbidities – most notably HIV. Five of the seven identified as “men who have sex with men,” according to the South African Department of Health.

Mpox lesions

None of the confirmed cases had travelled to countries with ongoing Mpox outbreaks.

The country is waiting for a consignment of Mpox vaccines to arrive as well as the treatment, tecovirimat, according to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.

'These vaccines will not be procurements but donations co-ordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi,' Phaahla told a media briefing.

Once these arrive, the health department intends to offer free vaccinations to four groups it regards as most at risk: men who have sex with men, sex workers, health workers and laboratory workers.

The seven patients’ known contacts are also being monitored for 21 days.

'The cases in South Africa were only detected in very sick individuals, highlighting that the epidemic is probably much bigger and that we need more diagnosis and contact tracing,' according to Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

The cases were confirmed by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Available sequence data from three cases revealed the circulation of Clade IIb, the Mpox strain that led to the largest multi-country Mpox outbreak in 2022.

'We are committed to supporting South Africa in securing the necessary doses of Mpox vaccines, and building capacity for event-based surveillance focusing on community and health facility,' said Dr Jean Kaseya, the Director General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention after meeting South Africa’s health minister.

'An Mpox outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere. We call for swift and urgent action to increase access to Mpox diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for all affected African countries.'

Since January, seven African countries have reported Mpox, with a total of 8,479 cases and 401 deaths as of 14 June. The vast majority of cases – 97% – are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Image Credits: Tessa Davis/Twitter .

News date: 2024-06-17