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Come on, monkeypox, raise your game!


MONKEYPOX continues to disappoint. Where are the piles of pox-ridden bodies on the streets, the undertakers’ carts piled high with corpses and Nightingale hospitals full to overflowing with pustulating patients taking the strain off our permanently overwhelmed NHS? Frankly, monkeypox (surely they can find a much less culturally insensitive name for it) has let us all down, especially those amongst us who like a jolly good panic.

In a typical piece of obfuscation meant to trap the unwary into thinking Poxageddon is upon us, the most recent data from the WHO says: ‘Since the beginning of 2022, 1,536 suspected cases with 72 deaths were reported from eight countries as of 8 June 2022; 59 confirmed cases were reported from six countries during this same period.’ They even helpfully present this in a table but what is completely unclear is which of the confirmed cases died of monkeypox. The table does not tell us and neither does the report. I strongly suspect, since the number of deaths exceeds the number of confirmed cases, that very few, or possibly, none of the deaths were attributable to monkeypox. In the grand scheme of things, a total 72 deaths is trivial (but each tragic) and the likelihood of becoming infected with monkeypox is so rare as to be negligible. Yet, still, it is news.

We have been exposed to all the usual monkeypox pandemicky tropes that became so familiar during Covid-19, such as the possibility of more dangerous variants, airborne spread, asymptomatic spread, and the need for testing and tracing, vaccines and quarantine. Now, fresh off the press, monkeypox may contaminate and therefore be spread on surfaces. The only thing missing seems to be ‘long monkeypox’. But then I guess that it is not, unlike the dubious condition of ‘long Covid’, something you’d want to brag about.

Nevertheless, never letting a good crisis go to waste, monkeypox seems to be the perfect excuse to fill the bottomless coffers of Big Pharma by the production and purchase of monkeypox vaccines. According to The Defender recently: ‘The Biden administration today said it ordered 2.5million more doses of Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos monkeypox vaccine, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was seeking to expand the vaccine for children, despite no known cases yet in children in the US.’ Once again, millions of people, including children, run the risk of being exposed to a vaccine that probably does not work and which they absolutely do not need.

According to the CDC: ‘Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox.’ Now, where have we heard figures like 85 per cent effective with reference to vaccines before? And, as readers of TCW Defending Freedom will know, when percentage effectiveness of vaccines is quoted we need to know if this refers to relative risk reduction (RRR) or absolute risk reduction (ARR). It makes a considerable difference depending on the initial likelihood of becoming infected. In the case of monkeypox that likelihood in a developed country is negligible and the ARR, an individual’s benefit of being protected, must be very low. The figure quoted by the CDC is undoubtedly the RRR which is one vaccinated person’s risk compared with another unvaccinated person which, in fact, is not a very useful thing to know. If I was going ‘over the top’ in the First World War, I would have wanted to know how likely it was I was going to die, not how less likely I was to die than the man next to me.

It is always instructive, just before completing an article during a developing situation, to do a quick internet search to see how recently the most recent piece of information on a topic went up. Writing this at 4:30pm on July 6 I see that Google is on the case. Within the past two hours, two cases of monkeypox have been detected in New South Wales, Australia. Never mind, I am sure they won’t panic or bring in heavy-handed public health measures. It just would not be the Australian way.

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Roger Watson
Roger Watson
Roger Watson is a Professor of Nursing.

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