India in talks for monkeypox vaccine as global outbreak spreads

Indian health workers screen passengers arriving from high-risk countries for symptoms of the monkeypox virus, on July 16, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India has started discussions with vaccine makers for developing a monkeypox vaccine, should the need arise, a senior government official said on Wednesday (July 27) as cases rise globally.

"We are already engaging with the potential players," said Dr Vinod Kumar Paul, a member of government think-tank NITI Aayog and head of the national task force on Covid-19.

"As you know, we have a strong... vaccine capacity. So, that's also under the government's active consideration."

India has tightened its nationwide surveillance, and those with symptoms should get tested for the disease, which is "imminently treatable", Dr Paul said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in a controversial and divided ruling on Saturday (July 23).

India has designated 15 laboratories to diagnose monkeypox and has adequate equipment to carry out two-step RT-PCR tests, Dr Paul said on the sidelines of a health industry event.

So far, the country has four confirmed monkeypox cases.

This comes as Bavarian Nordic, a little-known Danish drugmaker, won formal approval in the European Union to label its smallpox vaccine Imvanex for monkeypox.

The label extension came after similar clearances in Canada and the United States.

According to the WHO, the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally, except in Europe, where it is high.

The pathogen typically causes flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that often starts on the face and spreads down the belly. The illness usually lasts for two weeks to a month and can be deadly.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.