The global number of weekly new cases of monkeypox reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) declined globally by 21% for the first time since the infection that has been endemic to central and west Africa began to appear around the world earlier this year.
Cases continued rising sharply in the Americas, however, in contrast to recent declines in European hotspots, WHO said in a report on Thursday showing 5,907 new monkeypox cases were reported in the past week, down from 7,477 new cases the previous week.
That is a dramatic reversal from the 20% weekly increases in reported new monkeypox cases over the past month. More than 45,000 cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April.
After four consecutive weeks of rising monkeypox cases globally, WHO says, the overall weekly decrease may reflect early signs of a declining case count in the European region, but that has yet to be confirmed. Monkeypox cases from the Americas made up 60% of all cases compared to Europe’s 38% in the past month.
WHO officials, meanwhile, say they are examining proposals to split scarce monkeypox vaccines doses to stretch supplies — a strategy adopted by the United States on August 10, in response to the global shortage of monkeypox vaccines.
“The strategy of what’s termed using fractional doses for vaccines is not a new strategy for vaccines,” Dr. Kate O’Brien, WHO’s Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, told a virtual press briefing on Thursday.
“And we are looking really carefully at the evidence for the performance of these vaccines, these smallpox monkeypox vaccines, to look at the equivalence or in fact, possibly the improved performance using fractional doses,” she said.
O’Brien said a strategic advisory group of experts will meet at the beginning of October “to evaluate the evidence, and that includes looking at some of these fractional dose issues.”
The U.S. fractional dose strategy, also known as dose sparing, splits the approved MVA-BN vaccine that is typically administered subcutaneously into five doses from each vial that are delivered more superficially just below the outermost layer of skin, known as the epidermis.
Along with extending the limited vaccine supplies, the procedure is supposed to provoke a more powerful immune reaction. But the strategy announced earlier by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is not going according to plan, Politico reports, with those administering the vaccine saying they’re getting only three or four doses out of each vial.
Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.