- Federal officials are pledging to accelerate access to monkeypox vaccines and treatments as concerns grow that the U.S. is ill-prepared against an infectious virus.
- The Biden administration said on Thursday they would release 1.8 million additional doses of the Jynnesos vaccine and 50,000 courses of the antiviral Tpoxx.
- The additional doses come amid rising demand for a dwindling supply of vaccines, especially in hard-hit areas. On Tuesday, New York members of Congress called on the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up domestic production of the shots.
The monkeypox outbreak has been spreading in the U.S., with current case levels rising above 13,500. So far, the virus has mostly been spreading among men who have sex with men, but epidemiologists say its only a matter of time before it spills over to the larger population — especially because the nation struggles to vaccinate susceptible individuals — raising concerns that the window to contain monkeypox could be closing.
The HHS is making 360,000 vaccine vials available to order beginning Monday — the equivalent of 1.8 million doses, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O'Connell said at a White House briefing on Thursday. The doses will be available for state and local health departments that administer the vaccine intradermally and have used up 90% of their available supply, health officials said.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized administering the Jynneos shot intradermally, or between the layers of the skin. That increases the doses available from one vial by five times, though the vaccine’s developer, Bavarian Nordic, has raised concerns about this method, citing a lack of data and evidence as to its efficacy.
Public health officials said the move was an attempt to stretch the U.S.’s limited supply of vaccines as far as possible to meet demand. On Thursday, the HHS said it had also facilitated an agreement between Bavarian Nordic and a Michigan-based pharmaceutical contract manufacturer to package doses of the Jynneos vaccine in the U.S.
New York, which accounts for roughly a third of all U.S. monkeypox cases, has been struggling to meet demand for vaccinations. The state’s health department website has crashed twice due to an “overwhelming” number of people seeking vaccine appointments, according to state officials.
“It is clear that vaccine demand is quickly outpacing supply throughout the country,” Democrat members of Congress wrote in the new letter. “Now is the time to call on extraordinary measures to ensure our vaccine supply can meet the challenges of this moment.”
New York released data on Thursday finding more than 92% of vaccine doses have been given to individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, but the rollout has faced racial disparities in access.
Roughly 12% of doses went to Black New Yorkers, who make up 31% of individuals eligible for vaccination. About 23% went to Hispanic or Latino New Yorkers, who make up 16% of eligible individuals; and about 10% went to Asian or Pacific Islander New Yorkers, who make up 7% of eligible individuals.
Meanwhile, 45% of doses went to White New Yorkers, who make up roughly the same percentage of eligible individuals.