May 20, 2022 - Health

HHS says recent U.S. smallpox vaccine order not related to monkeypox outbreak

A vial of the smallpox vaccine.

Smallpox vaccine. Photo: cott A. Miller/Getty Image

The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority's (BARDA) recent purchase of smallpox vaccines is not related to the new monkeypox outbreak, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told Axios.

Driving the news: "The most recent BARDA purchase of smallpox vaccine was part of a standard and ongoing preparedness efforts and unrelated to specific events," an HHS spokesperson told Axios.

  • "BARDA has worked with industry to develop and purchase vaccines and treatments for a potential smallpox emergency, some of which may also be used to respond to monkeypox," the spokesperson said.

Details: On Thursday, Bavarian Nordic, a bio tech company that develops vaccines, announced that the U.S. had exercised options under an existing contract to order $119 million worth of a freeze-dried version of the Jynneos smallpox vaccine, which can help prevent smallpox and monkeypox disease in adults.

  • The order converts existing smallpox vaccines into freeze-dried versions. The converted vaccines will be manufactured in 2023 and 2024. 
  • Bavarian Nordic has been working with the U.S government since 2003, per Fortune.
  • The Jynneos vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent smallpox and monkeypox in 2019.

An unidentified European nation, however, has placed an order to obtain the same smallpox vaccine (known as Imvanex in Europe) in response to the recent monkeypox outbreak, according to Bavarian Nordic.

What they're saying: “While the full circumstances around the current monkeypox cases in Europe remain to be elucidated, the speed of which these have evolved, combined with the potential for infections beyond the initial case going undetected, calls for a rapid and coordinated approach by the health authorities, and we are pleased to assist in this emergency situation,” Paul Chaplin, president and CEO of Bavarian Nordic, said in a statement.

  • "Infection control has been a high priority for societies during COVID-19, and this situation is an unfortunate reminder, that we cannot let our guard down, but must continue to build and strengthen our infectious disease preparedness to keep the world open.”

Be smart: This may become the largest outbreak of the virus outside of Africa, but it's not likely to cause a global pandemic like COVID, an infectious disease expert tells Axios.

Go deeper ... What we know about the new monkeypox outbreak

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