Department of Health targets Mpox vaccine amid second fatal case.

Mpox cases are on the rise. Image: iStock

Health Department targets Mpox vaccine amid second fatal case

Department of Health is actively exploring the acquisition of an Mpox vaccine in response to a rising number of reported cases nationwide.

Department of Health targets Mpox vaccine amid second fatal case.

Mpox cases are on the rise. Image: iStock

The Department of Health is actively exploring the acquisition of an Mpox vaccine in response to a rising number of reported cases nationwide. This decision comes after a man in Gauteng who tested positive for the disease passed away. Today, the Department of Health confirmed the second death of a man from KwaZulu-Natal who also tested positive for Mpox, bringing the total death toll to two.

In KwaZulu-Natal, a 38-year-old patient tested positive for Mpox (previously referred to as Monkeypox) on Wednesday. He was admitted to a local hospital in uMgungundlovu and passed away from the disease on the same day.

Government’s response to rising Mpox cases

Health Minister Joe Phaahla addressed the media on Wednesday morning, outlining the government’s plans to curb the spread of Mpox. He emphasised the severity of the situation, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified all reported cases as severe. Additionally, the minister highlighted that the affected individuals fall within key populations, including men who have sex with men, many of whom have comorbidities.

“The cases have co-morbidities and have been identified as key populations, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM).

“Thus, the Department is reaching out to organisations working on HIV programmes and with key populations in addition to other stakeholders to implement targeted communication to intensify awareness about the outbreak and local transmission of the disease,” he said.

National Health spokesperson Foster Mohale detailed the current status of the six Mpox confirmed cases in the country: including the two fatalities recorded within a period of five weeks.

Emergency use approval and vaccine distribution

To tackle the growing threat, the Department of Health has obtained emergency use approval from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). This Section 21 approval allows for the compassionate use of antiviral treatments for patients with severe disease. SAHPRA has also granted permission for the department to secure larger doses of the antiviral medication, anticipating a potential increase in Mpox cases. The WHO will assist in facilitating access to these treatments.

Once procured, the vaccines will be distributed across all provinces to ensure a comprehensive response.

“The Department of Health is fully committed to ensuring these vaccines are available to all regions promptly,” Phaahla stated.

Tracking and Containing the Spread

The government has identified 38 contacts in KwaZulu-Natal linked to the current Mpox cases. These contacts include households, hospitals, sexual partners, and friends, demonstrating the virus’s potential reach. One patient from KwaZulu-Natal confirmed having sexual contact with multiple partners, including both males and females, indicating that while men are predominantly affected, women are also at risk.