UK health agencies secure CEPI funding to develop standard tools for monkeypox

UK health agencies have secured funding to develop a standardized approach to testing the performance of vaccines in use or under development against monkeypox, days after the World Health Organization (WHO) called the growing epidemic of global health emergency.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) said it would donate up to $375,000 to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) to develop standard tools to assess the strength and duration of immune responses. generated by current vaccines and for tests used to detect monkeypox antibody levels.

In addition to administration fees, these tools will be made freely available to the global scientific community, paving the way for a common standardized assessment between countries documenting the performance of monkeypox vaccines, CEPI said.

Until this year, the viral disease has rarely spread outside of Africa where it is endemic. But reports of a handful of cases in Britain in early May signaled the outbreak had moved to Europe. So far, there have been over 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in over 75 countries.

In many countries, health officials offer monkeypox vaccines to people at high risk and to those who have recently been in close contact with an infected person.

Danish company Bavarian Nordic is using the main vaccine to try to stem the outbreak, while an older vaccine, currently made by Emergent Biosolutions, has seen limited use due to a severe side effect warning.

Smallpox and monkeypox viruses are closely related, and the first generation of smallpox vaccines appear to be up to 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, the WHO said.

Moderna, the maker of a leading COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, recently revealed that it has a monkeypox vaccine in a very early stage of development.

The death rate in previous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa of the strain now spreading was around 1%, but so far this outbreak appears to be less deadly in non-endemic countries, many of which have infrastructure stronger health care.

Scientists are trying to determine what caused the initial surge of cases and if anything about the virus has changed. Increased global travel as well as climate change have generally accelerated the emergence and spread of viruses, experts say.

The global impact of monkeypox necessitates exploring whether existing countermeasures, such as currently stockpiled vaccines, will be sufficient to curb the spread of monkeypox, said CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett.

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