The Biden administration on Thursday said it is pushing out more monkeypox vaccine doses and treatments in an effort to contain an outbreak that in three months has grown to more than 14,000 confirmed cases across the U.S..
The federal government will make 360,000 vials, or 1.8 million more doses, of Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos vaccine available to jurisdictions on Monday and position 50,000 courses of the Tpoxx antiviral treatment across the country next week, White House officials said in a briefing. The U.S. will receive another 150,000 vials of the vaccine one month early in September and work with a contract manufacturer to fill 2.5 million vials from stored bulk supply held by Bavarian Nordic.
The accelerated response comes two weeks after the U.S. declared monkeypox a public health emergency and one week after it announced a strategy to boost supply of the vaccine five-fold. The Food and Drug Administration recommended adults receive the vaccine through an intradermal shot that only requires one-fifth the dose of the standard subcutaneous administration. The Jynneos vaccine requires two doses for full protection.
The Biden administration’s moves follow rising criticism of the federal government’s response to public health threats, including COVID-19 and a sluggish response to monkeypox. This week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky revealed plans to reorganize the agency, aiming to improve its release of data and public health recommendations as well as reduce staff turnover for outbreak responses.
The White House has acknowledged the urgency to do more to contain the monkeypox outbreak. “It is not a static response,” Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O'Connell said in the briefing. “We are continuing to assess where we are, evaluate what we need, and make improvements in real time.”
Short supply of the vaccine has hindered efforts to contain the outbreak. In a step toward easing that shortage, HHS on Thursday said it facilitated a technology transfer from Bavarian Nordic that will allow Michigan-based Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing to begin producing filled vials of the vaccine by the end of the year.
HHS will also pilot a program to supply 50,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to large events attended by men who have sex with men, a group that has been disproportionately affected by the outbreak. More than 98% of cases to date were in men, and for cases with data on sexual history, 93% were in men who reported sexual contact with other men, Walensky said Thursday.
Monkeypox is most often transmitted through close physical contact, including during sex and via skin lesions that are characteristic of the disease. People can limit their chance of contracting monkeypox by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with others and washing their hands often, the CDC says. Fewer than a dozen cases have been reported in children.
The government to date has distributed more than 1 million doses of vaccine and 22,000 courses of Tpoxx, and increased testing capacity to 80,000 tests per week, officials said.