What you need to know about ring vaccination, the worldwide strategy against monkeypox

The same strategy that was applied to be able to eradicate smallpox, around 1980, is the one that they defined to applycountries such as Canada, the United States, Denmark, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, among others, to stop the advance of monkeypox. The World Health Organization (WHO) , on more than one occasion, has ruled out that monkeypox will follow in the footsteps of COVID-19 and become a pandemic. Nevertheless,There are already more than a thousand affected in some 30 nations outside of Africa, a region where it is considered endemic.

“It is the largest outbreak ever recorded outside West and Central Africa, where monkeypox is common; and ring vaccination could help reduce infections,” said Dr. Robert Shmerling , former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and a professor at Harvard Medical School . According to the expert,controlling this outbreak requires preventive measures, such as avoiding close contact with sick people, but also getting vaccinated.

In that sense, Shmerling recalled that both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization affirmed that it is unlikely that monkeypox will become a pandemic, since, in Currently, the threat to the general public is not high. “The focus is on identifying possible cases and containing the outbreak as soon as possible.”

One way to contain the outbreak is the vaccination strategy called “ring vaccination” .”It has already worked well in the past to contain smallpox and Ebola outbreaks and now it may be effective for monkeypox as well.”, he claimed. In any case, the specialist highlighted that 2 important steps can be applied to contain the advance of this disease in the world.

What are the 2 important steps to stop the outbreak
1 – Recognize the first symptoms: although they can be considered similar to those of the flu (fever, fatigue, headache and enlarged lymph nodes),the eruption that appears a few days later can be decisive; as within a week or two the small flat spots change to small chickenpox-like blisters, which then lead to larger pus-filled ones. The rash usually starts on the face and then appears on the palms of the hands, arms, legs, and other parts of the body. If the infection came from sexual contact, the rash may first appear on or near the genitals.

2- Contain the spread :Transmission of the disease occurs through small respiratory droplets or through contact with fluids from skin sores. Anyone whose case has been confirmed, is suspected of having contracted it or has had close contact with an affected person should avoid approaching other people (when the sores turn into scabs it is no longer contagious). Healthcare workers and other caregivers should use personal protective equipment similar to that applied during COVID. In addition, vaccination may be the answer to break the chain of infection, since those who received smallpox (against human chickenpox) have some protection.

What is ring vaccination about?
This strategy is responsible for eliminating the human version from the face of the earth. It is for this reason that experts focused on replicating what allowed the world to get rid of smallpox.

As Shmerling warned, unlike COVID-19,people who have been infected with monkeypox “usually have symptoms when they are contagious, and the number of people infected is usually limited.” That is why he pointed to ring vaccination as a method that can be applied today.

In the words of the expert, vaccinating a “ring” means immunizing people who were or are close to a positive case, instead of “vaccinating an entire population, this is a selective approach” that has already been applied “successfully to contain smallpox and Ebola outbreaks.

How ring vaccination works
To explain how this strategy works, the Harvard expert highlighted:

  • When it is suspected or confirmed that a person has contracted monkeypox, it should beinterview both the patient and their close contactsin order to identify possible exposures.

-Vaccination against monkeypox should be offered to all close contacts.

  • In addition, they can beoffer immunization to those who were close contacts of close contactsof the confirmed case.

” Ideally, people should be vaccinated within four days of exposure ,” Shmerling said. While he cautioned that “this approach requires widespread awareness of monkeypox, rapid isolation of suspected cases, and an efficient contact tracing system. And, of course, vaccines must be available when and where new cases arise .”

How effective are the vaccines used against monkeypox?
Despite the fact that smallpox has an efficacy against monkeypox close to 85%, according to the CDC, there is a more recent immunization . It is called JYNNEOS, which is developed to attack monkeypox and smallpox, although it was only tested to evaluate its effectiveness in animals, although it is estimated that it would be highly effective in humans. “Of course,vaccines can only work if people are willing to receive them. We will learn more about this as more people are offered the option to get vaccinated.Shmerling noted.

How safe are monkeypox vaccines?
There are endless arguments against these immunizations. However, experts say they are safe. AmongThe most common side effects are: pain or itching in the arm at the injection site, mild allergic reactions, and mild fever or fatigue.

Anyway,Significant allergic reactions are among the most serious side effects, although they are considered rare events..

“In light of the current monkeypox outbreak, you may soon be hearing more about ring vaccination. On the other hand, if proper measures are taken to prevent its spread, this outbreak may end soon. Either way, this won’t be the last time an unusual virus appears seemingly out of nowhere in unexpected places .Climate change, shrinking animal habitats, an increase in the global animal trade and an increase in international travel mean it’s only a matter of time before this happens againShmerling concluded.

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