The Biden administration unveiled a new plan to vaccinate eligible Americans against monkeypox, prioritizing those who have been exposed to the virus in states with the highest infection rates.
Hundreds of thousands of doses of the Jynneos vaccine from Bavarian Nordic A/S will be made available under the administration’s new plan through a tiered-allocation system, the US Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.
Local officials will also be able to request Emergent BioSolutions Inc.’s ACAM2000 vaccine, but it isn’t recommended for use for everyone, such as immunocompromised people, due to “significant side effects.”
HHS will work with state and local health departments to get the shots to those at highest risk, primarily in the LGBTQ community or people who identify as men and have sex with men, a key part of the strategy to combat the outbreak. Cases have risen to more than 306 nationally, a number experts say is likely an undercount due to under testing.
Our goal right now is to ensure that the limited supply of Jynneos vaccine is deployed to those who can benefit from it most immediately, as we continue to secure additional vaccine doses,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said in a statement.
Unlike Covid-19, vaccination after monkeypox exposure can help significantly slow the spread of the virus and protect those who are most vulnerable, White House Covid Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said on a call with media.
The new vaccination strategy expands the definition of who is considered a direct contact, according to Jennifer McQuiston, the director of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC previously focused its vaccination effort on high-risk contacts of monkeypox patients
The new definition includes men who have sexual contact with men “who have had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading.”
The administration plans to allocate 296,000 Jynneos doses in the coming weeks, including 56,000 that will be available immediately, according to a release. Over the coming months, a combined 1.6 million additional doses will be made available, bolstering what is currently available in the country’s Strategic National Stockpile.
Supplies of the Jynneos vaccine, which is administered in two shots spaced four weeks apart, are running short. Last week, New York City’s Health Department opened appointments to eligible New Yorkers, but its initial supply of 1,000 doses was accounted for within days of the announcement. Health officials said on June 24 that they were working to secure additional doses.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the administration plans to offer vaccinations to a wider population. Documents from a meeting of agency advisers last week show that the CDC is developing a protocol aimed at allowing use of Bavarian’s Jynneos vaccine in children, if needed. The vaccine is currently cleared for use in adults.
There have been two pediatric monkeypox cases detected in the global outbreak so far, which has grown to more than 4,700 cases, Krutika Kuppalli, an adviser to the World Health Organization, said on Twitter. One case was reported in France over the weekend and the other was reported in the Netherlands, according to local media reports.
This new US vaccination strategy builds on recent efforts to decentralize and expand monkeypox testing, officials said, in order to “dramatically improve convenience for patients and health-care providers across the nation.”
The administration announced last week it would expand testing capacity to five of the nation’s largest commercial laboratories by early July. Experts had warned that the US wasn’t testing enough to detect the full scale of the outbreak — similar to mistakes made during the early days of the Covid pandemic.
Walensky also said that health-care providers should have a “high clinical suspicion” for monkeypox and testing should be considered for anyone with a suspicious rash.
The CDC also said Tuesday it will activate its Emergency Operations Center for monkeypox, adding 300 personnel to help handle the outbreak. The center is deployed to respond to different public health threats, including natural disasters and other infectious disease outbreaks, such as Covid-19.