The Biden administration said Thursday that it is ramping up its response to the outbreak of monkeypox in the U.S. by speeding the delivery of vaccines and making another 1.8 million doses available for ordering starting Monday, August 22. Access to the new supply will be limited to locations that have already used 90% of their initial vaccine allotments and agreed to administer the vaccine intradermally – a technique that allows a single dose to be divided and used on five people, with shots going just under the skin.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters that the public health response is entering “a new phase” following the declaration of a national health emergency. “The fluid and collaborative allocation of vaccines and treatments to our partners will continue as part of this latest phase, but we will also now surge and target vaccines and treatments when and where that can be most effective,” Becerra said.
An agreement between a European manufacturer and an American packaging firm is a key part of the plan. Bavarian Nordic, the Denmark-based producer of the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and Michigan-based Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing will work together to package the 2.5 million doses of the Jynneos vaccine that the Biden administration ordered in July. The collaboration is expected to reduce a nine-month process to three months.
“This partnership between Bavarian Nordic and GRAM will significantly increase the capacity to fill and finish government-owned doses – for the first time in the U.S. – and allow us to deliver our current and future supply more quickly to locations nationwide,” White House monkeypox response coordinator Bob Fenton said in a statement.
New outreach program: HHS said it was launching a pilot program that aims to reach members of the LGBTQ community by providing vaccines at large social events, with a special emphasis on providing vaccines for gay and bisexual men, who account for a majority of new infections. (Of the 13,500 cases identified in the U.S. so far, 93% were among men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.)
“The Administration has already started working with North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana health departments to prepare for large LGBTQI+ gatherings in those states in the coming days and weeks,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “For example, the Administration worked with North Carolina to develop a plan to administer vaccines during the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade on August 20th and 21st. The Administration will support North Carolina with up to 2,000 additional doses by replenishing their stock of vaccine with the number of doses administered during these events. Those doses are in addition to the more than 18,000 doses North Carolina has already received through its existing allocations.”