The United States will soon greatly expand its monkeypox vaccination program. On Tuesday evening, the Biden administration announced that it plans to make a stockpile of more than one million vaccine doses available to the public by the end of fall. Vaccines will primarily be given to close contacts of confirmed cases and others at higher risk of exposure, such as gay and bisexual men who have had multiple recent sexual partners in areas where the emerging disease has been spotted. .
The updated strategy announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday will call for a phased rollout of the nation’s supply of the JYNNEOS vaccine. Nearly 300,000 doses will be distributed throughout the country in the coming weeks, including 56,000 doses immediately. Another 750,000 doses will be made available over the summer. And up to 500,000 doses are expected to be released later in the year, assuming they pass the inspection process. A total of about 1.6 million doses of the two-dose vaccine are expected to be available in stock this year.
Vaccines became available so quickly because the monkeypox virus is closely linked to the smallpox virus now extinct, which was eradicated through a massive global vaccination campaign in 1980. Countries have always kept a stockpile of smallpox vaccines to this day, in part because there is still the small possibility that the virus could be resurrected as a as a biological weapon agent. And these vaccines are also thought to be effective against closely related viruses like monkeypox. This is because smallpox vaccines do not contain the virus itself, but another related virus called vaccinia.
The United States also has a much larger stockpile of ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine, and HHS said it would release doses for jurisdiactions that require it. But the ACAM2000 vaccine has greater side effects than JYNNEOS, making it less suitable for mass distribution, the agency said. In 2019, JYNNEOS became the first vaccine in the United States to be approved for both smallpox and monkeypox. It is estimated to be 85% effective against monkeypox, but this estimate is based on limited real-world data. The vaccine can also be given to people soon after a suspected exposure, which should reduce the risk of disease.
By announcing the expanded deployment of its stockpile, the United States is following in the footsteps of other countries such as the UK. Like those countries, the United States will allocate doses on a priority basis, based on people’s risk of exposure. At the top will be people known to be in close and prolonged contact with confirmed or suspected cases, followed by those whose sex partners have been diagnosed with monkeypox, and finally “men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a place where monkeypox is known to occur or in an area where monkeypox is spreading. Within these levels, considerations such as a person’s current health will also be taken into account.
“Our current focus is to ensure that the limited supply of JYNNEOS vaccine is deployed to those who can benefit most immediately, as we continue to obtain additional doses of vaccine,” said the HHS Assistant Secretary. for preparation and response, Dawn O’Connell, in a statement.
Monkeypox is thought to primarily infect rodents. Until recently, it had only occasionally spread from animals to humans after its discovery in the 1950s. But there have been more than 4,000 confirmed or suspected cases reported worldwide in humans this year, including more than 300 in the United States, which is a number of cases far greater than the sporadic outbreaks previously seen in parts of Africa. Although it may have been circulating in humans at low levels for several years now, its current spread appears to be fueled by close contact during sex. So far, epidemics have mainly involved men who sleep with men, but the virus can spread to anyone through close contact with infected skin rashes and possibly respiratory particles.
Last weekend, the World Health Organization decreases to declare a public health emergency of international concern regarding monkeypox at this time, although they continued to stress that greater international cooperation and action will be required to contain the virus before it becomes permanently endemic in other parts of the world.
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