The World Health Organization has officially declared the “monkeypox outbreak” a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Following their second emergency meeting on monkeypox in less than a month, WHO Director-General Thedros Adhanom told the press:
In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations […] For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”
For anyone living under a rock for the past two years, a PHEIC is defined as:
an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”
It is the highest alert WHO can issue, and grants them legal authority to issue travel warnings or restrictions, inspect and critique the public health measures of member states and other things of that nature.
Exactly what that means in this instance, and what form the “coordinated international response” will take, it is currently too early to tell.
Interestingly, according to the Guardian, this was entirely Ghebreyesus’ decision, that the committee was “deadlocked”, and he broke the deadlock and declared the PHEIC without a majority vote:
the WHO’s director general, said at a press conference that the committee met on Thursday to review the latest data, but that they were unable to reach a consensus. However, he has since decided to break the deadlock by declaring a PHEIC
Presumably Ghebreyesus could have “broken the deadlock” then, too, but declined to do so.
What’s changed since then?
We don’t know.
What we do know is that, in a delightfully convenient bit of timing, just yesterday Danish pharma company Bavarian Nordic announced their smallpox vaccine had been approved for use against monkeypox by the European Medicines Agency [official statement].
Bavarian Nordic has had a very good quarter of business thanks to monkeypox, and with these two announcements working in concert, they can expect a big increase in the value of their stock.
It’s also unlikely to be a coincidence that this comes right on the tail of a “study” which has found “new symptoms” in monkeypox patients which (allegedly) means it may have been “under-diagnosed” to this point.
Also in the monkeypox news just yesterday was condemnation from veteran AIDS campaigners that “no one is treating it like an emergency”
Meanwhile, again just yesterday, the Atlantic is headlining “We’re testing for monkeypox the wrong way”, and calling people with no symptoms to be tested, as well as warning aginst the (very familiar) “danger” of “asymptomatic transmission”.
All of this, in combination with the resurgent Covid headlines, suggest a push back towards a “public health” narrative and away from the “war in Ukraine” narrative.
But what do you guys think?