The Philippines is now in talks with other member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the procurement of vaccines against monkeypox.
“We are coordinating with ASEAN member-states. The procurement of monkeypox vaccines is being discussed on that level of international membership,” Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Tuesday.
“We will be joining the ASEAN member-states if and when these plans will push through,” she added.
Vergeire said the Food and Drug Administration has already identified three manufacturers of the monkeypox vaccine.
A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.
Last month, the country detected its first case of monkeypox, days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the disease a global health emergency.
The United States on Thursday declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a move that should free up new funds, assist in data gathering and allow the deployment of additional personnel in the fight against the disease.
The US has so far delivered some 600,000 JYNNEOS vaccines—originally developed against monkeypox’s related virus, smallpox—but this number figure is still far short of the approximately 1.6 million people considered at highest risk and who need the vaccine most.
Some 99 percent of US cases have so far been among men who have sex with men, the Health and Human Services department said last week, and this is the population authorities are targeting in the national vaccination strategy.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommended monkeypox vaccines be offered to those who had confirmed exposures.
The first symptoms include fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes.
Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. allayed fears of Filipinos on monkeypox, saying it is not as infectious as COVID-19.
He said treatments and vaccines are available for monkeypox even as he called on the public to continue following health protocols to avoid the spread of the disease.
“We remain vigilant. We are closely monitoring monkeypox just like we have done with COVID,” Marcos said.
An infectious disease expert also warned anyone can get infected with monkeypox through close intimate contact.
This as a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week found that 98 percent of those infected with monkeypox were gay or bisexual men, and 95 percent of cases were transmitted through sexual activity.
“It’s safe to say anybody who has close intimate contact with a person having monkeypox then you have a high risk of getting the infection,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of adult infectious diseases at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
“This is an infection that everybody or anyone is at risk, it just so happened at this point in time this outbreak has occurred in this group of the population,” he added.
Solante warned against improper labeling of the disease as it can lead to stigmatization and discrimination.
“We just have to advise that those who had these lesions, anybody can get the infection regardless of what risk group you are, and the important message there is anybody is at risk of monkeypox,” he said.