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U.S. government asks monkeypox vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic to find partners

A global shortage in the supply of a vaccine being used to protect against severe illness for monkeypox has spurred the U.S. to negotiate new terms with the sole manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic.

The White House Monkeypox Response Team told reporters that for its next order — 2.5 million doses — the U.S. has asked Bavarian Nordic to work with a contract manufacturer or to partner with a large pharmaceutical company.

A potential deal with Michigan-based Grand River Asceptic Manufacturing is in the works.

"As you know, they're a small manufacturer. They have one active line in the Copenhagen area that we're relying on for 2.5 million doses to be filled and finished. But when we ordered that second 2.5 million to be filled and finished, we made it a requirement that they work with a domestic U.S. contract manufacturing organization," said Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The U.S. is also helping the company in other ways, including working with big pharmaceutical companies to potentially partner with Bavarian Nordic.

The vaccine from the Danish company was originally developed to protect against smallpox, and data from animal model is being used to support the use as a monkeypox vaccine since the disease is from the same family as smallpox.

It's why CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized the limited data and the need to monitor and study the vaccine's efficacy in real time.

"We don't yet know how well this vaccine will work in this outbreak," Walensky said.

Currently, the vaccine is only expected to protect against severe disease and death, similar to COVID vaccines.

An employee of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic shows a picture of a vaccine virus on a display in a laboratory of the company in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, May 24, 2022. The company, headquartered in Denmark, is the only one in the world to have approval for a smallpox vaccine called Jynneos in the U.S. and Imvanex in Europe, which is also effective against monkeypox. REUTERS/Lukas Barth

But even so, the federal government is hoping to get as many high-risk individuals — predominantly men who have sex with men (MSM) — vaccinated in a short period of time. The CDC announced a pilot program to have the vaccine, as well as the treatment TPOXX, available at major events where LGBTQ+ individuals are likely to attend.

To date, many of the cases have been reported after recent sexual contact between men, however there have also been reports of pregnant women and skin-to-skin contact.

As of August 17, there have been more than 13,500 cases of monkeypox reported in the U.S., including territories, and more than 39,000 cases globally in 94 countries. The U.S. accounts for the majority of cases and, according to the White House team, is the country with the most available vaccine doses.

Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem

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