Biden administration awards $20M contract to expand monkeypox response
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday announced it was awarding a nearly $20 million contract to AmerisourceBergen to expand the distributions of treatments and vaccines to respond to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
The $19.8 million contract to AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest drug distribution companies in the U.S., will allow for the shipment of up to 2,500 shipments of frozen Jynneos vaccine vials as well 2,500 “ambient temperature” shipments of the Tpoxx antiviral treatment per week.
It will also allow for more locations where the shipments can be received. HHS noted that before this contract, the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile was sending products to roughly five locations per jurisdiction.
Throughout the monkeypox outbreak, state and local governments have repeatedly said they have struggled to acquire the adequate amount of vaccines to immunize their at-risk populations. Shortly after first doses of Jynneos were administered around the country, several cities ended up delaying the second dose in order to meet immediate demand while hoping more vaccine doses would soon become available.
“Today’s announcement is the result of our real-time and ongoing conversations with states and jurisdictions aimed at improving the national response. This new commercial contract will help deliver vaccines and treatments to communities and at-risk individuals more quickly and bring us a step closer to ending the current outbreak,” HHS Assistant Secretary Dawn O’Connell said in a statement.
HHS said about 800,000 vials of Jynneos and 37,000 courses of Tpoxx have been distributed across the country so far. As of last week, more than 352,000 doses of vaccines to treat monkeypox have been administered. No deaths directly caused by monkeypox have been confirmed so far, though one man in Texas who was “severely immunocompromised” did recently die after having been diagnosed with monkeypox.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 18,000 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far. The rate of new cases has begun to attenuate in the U.S. in recent weeks. White House officials previously said it is too soon to attribute this decline in cases to the vaccination campaign.
Instead, this trend could be due to a change of sexual habits among men who have sex with men, the main demographic to be affected by the current outbreak. A CDC survey found that about half of men who have sex with men reported having fewer sexual partners and encounters due to the outbreak.