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Linking the COVID-19 vaccine to Monkeypox: busting the myths

An isolation ward for Monkeypox patients at a government hospital in Hyderabad. AFP

Monkeypox is a rare disease which is a kind of infection caused by Monkeypox virus which belongs to the same virus family as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. The virus was named monkeypox because it was first detected in a monkey. But people should know that although monkeypox symptoms resemble smallpox symptoms, they are relatively milder and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox at all.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”. According to data from the WHO and the UN, the number of confirmed infections increased by almost 77% between the end of June and the beginning of July.

With nearly 17,000 reported cases of Monkeypox worldwide, the need of the hour is to raise awareness of the disease with real facts. Some social media posts have claimed that ‘shingles’ is the side effect of the COVID vaccine. Now people are worried about whether COVID vaccines are playing a role in spreading the disease, as social media is awash with speculation that the chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is responsible for the Monkeypox epidemic. Social media posts claiming that COVID vaccines help spread Monkeypox have no scientific explanation behind it. There are a few symptoms that might be similar in both shingles and Monkeypox, but these two illnesses are not caused by the same virus.

Apart from Covaxin, which is an inactivated vaccine, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are all viral vector vaccines that use different adenoviruses as delivery system or vector. The adenoviral vector is one of the most effective protections against infectious diseases. There are both human adenoviruses and chimpanzee adenoviruses.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus vector called ChAdOx1 in its formula, and Covishield also uses a chimpanzee adenovirus (AZD1222 or ChAdOx1). The Russian Sputnik V vaccine used two different human adenoviral vectors, called Ad26 and Ad5. The vectors which are used in these vaccines act as carriers. It helps transport the vaccine component into human cells and does not contribute to the development of an infection itself.

Just like other viral vector vaccines, chimpanzee adenovirus has also been modified, therefore it does not replicate or infect humans. Keeping in mind that humans will not have pre-existing antibodies against chimpanzee adenovirus, few vaccine manufacturers have used chimpanzee adenovirus in their formulations. Due to the unique characteristics and non-reactivity to pre-existing neutralizing antibodies of human adenovirus, for many years the chimpanzee adenovirus-based vector has been one of the most preferred choices for research and development. of vaccines.

By now people should realize that COVID is much more contagious in nature than Monkeypox – only 5 deaths are reported worldwide due to Monkeypox. But as we have seen, three waves of COVID have resulted in the death of over 60 lakhs. It is therefore more important that the world’s population get stung with COVID 19 vaccines without doubting their effectiveness.

Covishield has shown almost 90% efficacy, Covaxin has around 80% efficacy and Sputnik V has shown nearly 97% efficacy against COVID-19, so without hesitation or further delay people should prioritize taking two doses of COVID vaccines and the booster shots also due to a recent increase in COVID cases in some parts of the country.

The author is Chairman of Medical and Quality Committee, Redcliffe Labs, India, former Laboratory Director of CAREC administered by PAHO/WHO. Views are personal.

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