The first cases of monkeypox arrive: vaccines are already being ordered in Europe

The first Italian case was identified at Spallanzani in Rome, the same institution where the first case of Covid in Italy was identified in January 2020: a boy returning from the Canary Islands tested positive for monkeypox. In Europe, the first infected was reported by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on 7 May, other cases have also been found in Spain and Portugal, for now about twenty in total. Until now, all the infected are well and the health institutions have hastened to communicate that the situation should not cause particular alarmism, considering the fact that the virus has been known for decades and has never caused widespread epidemics. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already convened an expert group for a “Emergency meeting”while at least two countries have already ordered stocks of the vaccineready and approved in 2019. But let’s proceed in order, first of all: what is monkeypox?

Widespread mainly in West Africa, especially in the Congo Basin, the monkey virus was first observed in 1958. In nature, the virus actually affects rodents and can be transmitted to primates (and therefore also to humans) by animals infected through close contact (blood or bites). According to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità: “it is an infection caused by a virus of the same family as smallpox but which differs widely from smallpox itself for lower diffusivity and gravity […] In humans it presents with fever, muscle aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and skin manifestations such as blisters, pustules, small scabs […] The disease resolves spontaneously in 1-2 weeks with adequate rest and without specific therapies; antivirals can be administered when necessary “. The methods of transmission are still not entirely certain, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): through the contact with an infected animal or, from man to man, through “large respiratory droplets“(Prolonged face-to-face contact) and exchange of body fluids. The fact that the first cases in Britain occurred in the gay and bisexual male community also prompted the ECDC to recommend attention “to the community of individuals who identify as MSM (men who have sex with men, ed) or who have intercourse occasional sex or having multiple sexual partners “. It specifies that it provoked the protest of LGTBQ + groups who remember the stigma of HIV, long mistakenly considered the “homosexual virus”.

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According to experts, this is not a particularly insidious virus, particularly evidenced by the fact that even previous outbreaks found in the West have died out quickly. Furthermore, the modes of transmission are not viral as in the case of coronaviruses, requiring exchanges of body fluids or large drops of saliva. In addition, the smallpox vaccine, which in Italy was mandatory until those born in 1981, also protects against the variant in question by guaranteeing immunity to those born after that date, including the elderly who would be more at risk in case of infection.

Reassuring details that have not held back some institutions since already evaluate vaccination campaigns. Because a vaccine against the monkey virus already exists, approved for the first time in the US in 2019 and then in Europe where it took on the trade name of IMVANEXmanufacturer of a Danish pharmaceutical company named Bavarian Nordic. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has already recommended that “Vaccination of high-risk close contacts should be considered after a benefit-risk assessment”. And the first European states have already moved. The same Bavarian Nordica company listed on the stock exchange on the NASDAQ list in Copenhagen, yesterday 19 May hastened to release a statement to investors in which it announces that it has already “secured a contract with an undisclosed European country for the supply of its IMVANEX smallpox vaccine® in response to new cases of monkeypox that evolved in May 2022 ″. In the same release Paul Chaplin, President and CEO of the company, says that “Infection control was a top priority for companies during COVID-19 and this situation reminds us that we cannot let our guard down, but we must continue to build and strengthen our preparedness for infectious diseases to keep the world open ”. And outside the European Union the UK has already ordered IMVANEX doses: as reported by the Telegraphthe Johnson government has already ordered 20,000 doses.

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