US struggles to meet monkeypox vaccine demand

Monkeypox is characterized by lesions on the skin — which can appear on the genitals or the mouth — and is often accompanied by fever, sore throat and pain in the lymph nodes. It usually clears up on its own but can be extremely painful

Jynneos is a two-dose vaccine, the only currently approved to prevent monkeypox infection. Photo: AFP/File
Jynneos is a two-dose vaccine, the only currently approved to prevent monkeypox infection. Photo: AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States, which is forecasting an increase in monkeypox cases in the coming weeks, does not currently have enough vaccines to meet demand, a top health official said Friday.

Concern has grown especially in New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak of the virus, with nearly 390 cases counted as of July 14. The United States has seen a total of 1,470 cases.

The illness is characterized by lesions on the skin — which can appear on the genitals or the mouth — and is often accompanied by fever, sore throat and pain in the lymph nodes. It usually clears up on its own but can be extremely painful.

“I want to acknowledge that at this time the demand for vaccines from jurisdictions is higher than our current available supply,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said. “And we know that this is frustrating.”

“We don’t yet have all the vaccine that we would like in this moment,” she told reporters during a press conference, warning that authorities “anticipate an increase in cases in the coming weeks.”

New York public health authorities were forced to apologize earlier this week when a government website became overwhelmed as thousands tried to log on to book vaccine appointments at once.

“Vaccine supply is extremely limited, extremely constrained, all across this country, and especially here in New York,” the head of the city’s public health department Ashwin Vasan said Thursday.

Close contact

In May, when the outbreak began in the United States, there were only 2,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine — the only specifically approved against monkeypox — available in the country.

Since then, 156,000 doses have been distributed nationwide. More than 130,000 doses have been added to the strategic national stockpile and are expected to start being disseminated Monday.

The next round of vaccine distribution will prioritize hardest-hit regions first, Walensky said.

“I anticipate that there will be a lot more supply for New York City,” she added.

Furthering shortages, a shipment of 786,000 doses has been stuck in Denmark awaiting inspection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The review is now complete, according to FDA official Peter Marks, and “we told the manufacturer (Bavarian Nordic) that they may ship the vaccine,” he said.

Additionally, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday they had ordered another 2.5 million doses of the Jynneos vaccine, set to arrive in 2023. That order follows another made earlier this month, which is expected to arrive later this year.

People wait in line to enter the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic — which was administering monkeypox vaccines — on July 08, 2022 in New York City

The two-injection vaccine is currently recommended for anyone who has been in close contact with someone infected with monkeypox. For now, the virus is mostly circulating among the LGBTQ community, especially gay and bisexual men.

Monkeypox spreads through close physical contact, by touching objects that have previously been handled by an infected person, or by close face-to-face interaction.

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