IN OUR VIEW: Monkeypox vaccine secrecy is harmful

Why does the federal government have to play games with information about vaccines?

Monkeypox virus. (Special to Black Press Media)

Monkeypox virus. (Special to Black Press Media)

Yet again, the federal government is keeping an important piece of information from the public, probably because the truth would be embarrassing.

There have now been hundreds of monkeypox cases across the country, and tens of thousand around the world, since the new outbreak began this spring.

People can be protected against monkeypox with a smallpox vaccination.

Of course, Canada stopped vaccinating people against smallpox decades ago. Older folks will have the smallpox scar on their arm, but it’s been two generations since widespread vaccination was common.

Canada, and most countries, have continued to keep stockpiles of smallpox vaccines on hand, even though the virus was wiped out in the early 1980s, because there was always the possibility that a lab sample could leak or be stolen and used as a bioweapon.

Because they’re so closely related, a smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox, too.

The strategy of treating the monkeypox outbreak is to vaccinate close contacts of anyone who comes down with the disease – which is, fortunately, both less transmissible and less lethal than COVID-19.

However, this strategy will only work to mitigate spread as long as we have sufficient supply.

How much do we have?

Well, no one in Ottawa will say, of course.

Why simply give people information when you can keep them in suspense instead? That seems to be the attitude of the governing Liberals.

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Presumably the real answer is that there isn’t enough to go around if things get worse. That leads to further questions – how much can be procured, how much can be made domestically, will the government take steps to beef up our future stockpiles and national capabilities…

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because these are all quite similar to questions that were asked when COVID-19 struck and the first vaccines were being rushed into production. The government was somewhat more forthcoming then, with the eyes of every voter in the country on them.

We do have some idea of how much stock we have, as B.C. and some other provinces have been more transparent about how many vaccine doses they’ve received.

B.C. announced at the end of July that the province got its hands on 14,480 doses for “outbreak control.”

Unfortunately, it has already used more than 7,200 of them, nearly half. How many more doses can Ottawa send?

Guess we’ll wait to find out. Because in cases of public health, what you want is suspense.

EditorialsFederal PoliticsMonkeypox