SA's Aspen standing ready to produce monkeypox vaccine 'when the call comes'

FILE: A man with a blistering monkeypox rash. Picture: © halfpoint/123rf.com

| The Money Show interviews Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive for Biologicals at the Aspen Pharma Group.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern
last Saturday (23 July).

The decision sparked a debate about whether this was an overreaction on the part of the United Nations agency.

Related stories:



WHO declares monkeypox outbreak a global public health emergency

Monkeypox: Here's what we know about the spread of the disease in SA, so far



South African drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare has now announced it stands ready once again "to support the global effort needed to contain the latest threat which monkeypox represents".

Bruce Whitfield chats to Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Aspen Group Executive for Biologicals (Commercial Strategy & Access).

She describes monkeypox as a condition that is caught from a virus, in exactly the same family as smallpox.

It's spread through close contact like skin on skin, bodily fluids... It is possible that respiratory droplets with infected material can also aid transmission from person to person.

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

You get a bit of a fever, you get swollen glands and it presents with a classic kind of skin rash.

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

Smallpox, monkeypox... all have the potential consequence of pock marks you see on the skin following the lesions... unpleasant and unsightly...

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

Dr Bonadonna says cases of monkeypox have been picked up since the 1970s, predominantly in West African countries and sometimes in Central Africa.

What is different about the current situation is the nature of the outbreak.

Why it's been declared a public health incident is because back in May we had about 1 700 cases that then ramped up to about 4 000... and now at the end of July we're looking at about 18 000 cases in 75 countries.

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

While the smallpox vaccination provides some cross-protection against monkeypox, a significant percentage of the population has not had the vaccine as the disease was eradicated she says.

Dr Bonadonna says there are apparently two manufacturers of a monkeypox vaccine, with limited approval and supplies for global distribution.

One has approval only in the US and one has approval in the US and also from the European agency... Supplies in the global context are quite modest...

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

I understand one company has a stockpile but they haven't disclosed where or how much, which is one of the reasons Aspen felt it important to flag investments we've made that led to our capacity of finishing up to 300 million doses of vaccine a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

With that investment, our upskilling and our learning, we stand ready to support whatever is needed to build the appropriate amount of vaccine to tackle monkeypox... which is the latest in what will be, unfortunately, a never-ending cycle of what is the next pandemic threat for us as humans.

Dr Lisa Bonadonna, Group Executive: Biologicals - Aspen Pharma Group

Listen to the interview with Dr Bonadonna on The Money Show:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : SA's Aspen standing ready to produce monkeypox vaccine 'when the call comes'

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