Biden officials accelerating monkeypox vaccine effort, including 1.8 million additional doses

AP Photo/Richard Vogel
A patient receives a Monkeypox vaccination at a Pop-Up Monkeypox vaccination site at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif. The City of West Hollywood is working with public health officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in responding to the monkeypox outbreak. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The Biden administration is planning to accelerate the delivery of its remaining supply of monkeypox vaccines and will make an additional 1.8 million doses available for ordering starting Monday, officials said Thursday.

Jurisdictions will only be able to access the additional doses if they adopt the new intradermal administration of vaccine and have used 90 percent of their current supply of vaccine, officials said.

Another delivery of 150,000 Jynneos vials will arrive in September, after the White House sped up a shipment that was scheduled for October.

The new method of administering the Jynneos vaccine will allow officials to stretch the limited available supply by splitting doses to cover five times as many people. The change meant that the administration’s 441,000 available doses of Jynneos suddenly became more than 2 million potential shots.

Ever since administration health officials signed off on the plan earlier this month, they have been counting each vial of Jynneos as five doses, instead of one.

Jurisdictions have just started to transition to the new method, and some have said they need more guidance from the federal government before moving ahead. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials are working to train health workers on the new method.

The Department of Health and Human Services is also launching a pilot program to provide additional vaccine allocations to state and local health departments in jurisdictions that are hosting large events that attract members of the LGBTQ community.

The pilot program will set aside up to 50,000 doses from the Strategic National Stockpile that communities can request, on top of their existing allocation. For example, the administration will send up to 2,000 additional doses to North Carolina this weekend for the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade.

Bob Fenton, the White House monkeypox response coordinator, told reporters Thursday the effort is a way to “meet people where they are,” rather than have them try to look for the vaccine.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that even if a person gets vaccinated at an event like Pride, they will still need a second dose.

“While we are offering the vaccine at these events to those at high risk, this is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at the event will not provide protection at the event itself,” Walensky said.

Officials also announced an effort to make the antiviral drug Tpoxx more widely available by “prepositioning” 50,000 courses to jurisdictions across the country.

Starting next week, jurisdictions will be allocated courses of Tpoxx using a formula that takes into account both the number of cases in their jurisdiction and the number of individuals who have the highest risk of contracting the virus, including individuals who have HIV or other immunocompromised conditions.

But Tpoxx is a smallpox drug and is not approved for monkeypox. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the treatment under an expanded access protocol, which puts strict rules on how the drug can be prescribed. Clinicians have complained that the barriers are excessive and cumbersome, so it’s unclear how many of the additional treatment courses will be prescribed.

The FDA and CDC have cut down on some of the paperwork, but the White House in a fact sheet said “it is important that this drug be used judiciously in accordance with the Expanded Access protocol.”

The latest federal data shows more than 13,500 monkeypox cases have been reported so far in the United States. According to the CDC, 98 percent of cases are in men. Among cases with known recent sexual history and gender, 93 percent were among men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.

Updated at 12:45 p.m.

Tags Biden Rochelle Walensky
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