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Rebecca Lumley
31 May 2022

Western countries consider stockpiles, place orders for vaccine against monkeypox

The US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and Spain are among several countries to purchase vaccine doses. 

Several countries in Europe and North America have started offering vaccines for monkeypox to their most exposed citizens, as cases of the viral disease continue to rise.  

There is currently no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against it, according to the World Health Organisation. The vaccine is made by Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic and goes under the name Imvanex in the European Union, Imvamune in Canada, and Jynneos in the US.  

Last week, the EU agreed on common purchasing of the vaccine and the UK struck a deal for 20,000 doses. Canada said it had started pre-positioning the Imvamune vaccine from its national emergency stockpile across the country, while the US said it was in the process of releasing the Jynneos vaccine. US officials said there were more than 1,000 doses of the vaccine in the national stockpile and they expected that level to ramp up quickly in the coming weeks. 

Several countries are also striking deals to purchase the antiviral tecovirimat, developed by US-based SIGA Technologies. Tecovirimat, sold under the brand name TPOXX among others, is an oral medication which is approved in Europe as a treatment against orthopoxviruses such as smallpox and monkeypox.  

Global health officials have tracked more than 300 suspected and confirmed cases of the viral infection in about 20 countries since early May.  Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. 

Symptoms of the disease - which can include fever, distinctive rashes and pus-filled skin lesions - can last for two to four weeks, but often resolve on their own. The variant of the virus implicated in the current outbreak is believed to kill a small fraction of those infected. 

Last week, a senior World Health Organisation official advised that countries take steps to contain the spread of the disease and share data about their vaccine stockpiles.  

‘We think that if we put in place the right measures now, we probably can contain this easily,’ Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, told the UN agency's annual assembly. 

She said: ‘We don't know exactly the number of doses available in the world and so that’s why we encourage countries to come to WHO and tell us what are their stockpiles.’ 

While the size of global supply is unclear, it is estimated to be quite constrained. WHO officials are advising against mass vaccination, instead suggesting targeted administration where available for close contacts of people infected. 

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