The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed on Saturday that it renamed variants of the monkeypox virus after some critics raised concerns that the names could be derogatory or have racist connotations.
“Current best practice is that newly-identified viruses, related disease, and virus variants should be given names with the aim to avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimize any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare,” the WHO wrote in a release.
According to the Associated Press, after scientists reached a consensus, the Congo Basin (Central African) and West African variants were reclassified as Clade I and Clade II, respectively, the latter of which has two subclades.
The news agency also reported that the WHO is holding an open forum to rename the disease monkeypox, which was first named in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a “pox-like” disease. The global health agency stated that it was opening a way for the public to suggest new names for monkeypox but did not say when the new name would be announced.
To date, there have been more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox across eighty-nine countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, the United States has seen about 11,000 infections across forty-nine states. However, health officials contend that they are not exactly sure how fast the disease has spread, as they have only limited information about people who have been diagnosed and they are unsure how many infected individuals might be spreading it unknowingly.
In an effort to contain the fast-spreading virus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week issued an emergency use authorization that allows healthcare providers to split Jynneos monkeypox vaccine doses. The strategy will enable providers to get up to five doses out of a standard one-dose vial.
“In recent weeks the monkeypox virus has continued to spread at a rate that has made it clear our current vaccine supply will not meet the current demand,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.
“The FDA quickly explored other scientifically appropriate options to facilitate access to the vaccine for all impacted individuals. By increasing the number of available doses, more individuals who want to be vaccinated against monkeypox will now have the opportunity to do so,” he continued.
However, Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin wrote in a recent letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Califf that “we do have some reservations…due to the very limited safety data available.”
Chaplin added that conducting further studies before overhauling the nation’s monkeypox vaccine strategy would be “prudent.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.