Orders for monkeypox vaccines have soared at the Danish laboratory Bavarian Nordic, the only one that manufactures an already approved vaccine against the disease. However, those responsible are convinced that they will be able to respond to requests.
“The approval [das autoridades de saúde norte-americanas] received in 2019 (…) has suddenly become very, very relevant for international health,” said Rolf Sass Sørensen, vice president of the company, at the port of Copenhagen, the laboratory’s headquarters.
Surprised by the spread of the disease outside the 11 African countries where it was endemic, Sass Sørensen said they would be able to fulfill the requests despite having only one production plant.
“With the current demand we can easily supply the world market. We have a few million doses in bulk, we can put them in vials and ensure that the current epidemic is treated”, explains the vice president of the laboratory to AFP.
Bavarian Nordic has an annual production capacity of 30 million doses at its factory in the north of the Danish capital. Their smallpox vaccine is third generation and is a live vaccine that does not replicate in the human body.
It is marketed under the name Imvanex in Europe, where it has been licensed since 2013. In the US it is marketed as Jynneos and as Imvamune in Canada.
Many bookings from European countries
The treatment requires two doses of the vaccine and was initially prescribed to treat smallpox in adults, a disease considered eradicated 40 years ago. In 2019 it was greenlit in the US to be used against monkeypox and the lab is working to expand its European approval for this specific variant.
According to Sass Sørensen, the vaccine is “in stock in many countries” and can be taken before or after exposure to the disease.
“If you get vaccinated a few days after you’ve been exposed, you can still be protected,” said Sass Sørensen.
Within the European Union, the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), created due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has acquired almost 100,000 vaccines that will be made available to the 27 member countries, in addition to Norway and Iceland. The first deliveries are scheduled for the end of June, in priority countries, indicated the European authorities.
The US also announced an increase in its reserves with 500,000 supplementary doses, in addition to the 100 million units of another smallpox vaccine, from the French group Sanofi. Canada and Denmark did the same.
Mass vaccination not advised
Despite all orders, the Danish laboratory protects the nationality of its buyers.
“We do not reveal the names of the countries, but we have orders from all over the world. USA, European countries, Asian countries, the Middle East”, said the person responsible for the laboratory.
The value of the orders was not disclosed, but it allowed Bavarian Nordic to increase its 2022 profit forecasts fourfold in just three weeks.
Despite the exponential increase in cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend “mass” vaccination for now. In France, the health authority recommended the administration of a single dose to people who are at risk contacts and who were vaccinated against smallpox before 1980, with the exception only for those suffering from immunosuppression.
The US, on the other hand, only advises immunization for those who have contact with confirmed cases.
Tecovirimat, a smallpox drug produced by Siga, was approved to treat monkeypox earlier this year by the European Medicines Agency, but is not yet available in large quantities. Usually benign, the disease usually resolves on its own after two or three weeks of flu-like symptoms followed by a rash.
From 1 January to 15 June, the WHO detected more than 2100 cases and one death in 42 countries. Europe is at the center of the spread, with 1773 confirmed cases, 84% of the world total.
In addition to the smallpox vaccine, Bavarian Nordic produces immunizations against tick meningoencephalitis, rabies, Ebola and is developing others against Covid-19 and respiratory viruses.