White House Urges States To Split Monkeypox Vaccine Into Fifths To Stretch Supply

The effort relies on a new vaccination protocol to address the country’s limited supplies of the vaccine.

The Biden administration said Thursday it would send out an additional 1.8 million doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine if states adopt a new vaccination protocol, the White House’s latest effort to rein in the growing outbreak of the the disease before a slate of major LGBTQ events in the coming months.

The White House’s strategy relies on a new vaccination protocol that would stretch the country’s limited supplies of the vaccine. Patients would be given one-fifth as much per shot in an intradermal injection method rather than the traditional full dose, which is usually injected into the layer of fat beneath the skin.

States that agree to use the intradermal method and have used 90% of their current vaccine supply will be eligible to order more doses starting Monday.

The FDA authorized the new strategy last week and federal health agencies say the new protocol is just as effective at preventing monkeypox.

“More shots in arms is how we get the outbreak under control,” Robert Fenton, the coordinator of the White House’s monkeypox response, told reporters Thursday. “This is important ... It’s innovative, the way that we will bolster local efforts to meet people where they are and mitigate the spread of monkeypox.”

There have been more than 14,100 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. since the outbreak first began in May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease primarily has been detected in men who have sex with men and spreads mainly through close physical contact.

So far, many gay and bisexual men have struggled to access vaccinations, with appointments booking up in hours and shots skewed towards wealthier white people with more flexibility to source them.

But the new vaccination strategy has already prompted some concern, chiefly from Bavarian Nordic, the maker of the Jynneos vaccine. The company sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra last week saying it had “some reservations” about the intradermal method, adding there is “very limited” data on the strategy’s safety. Officials there also said they worried patients wouldn’t get their second doses, which are required to get full protection from monkeypox.

A nurse administers a monkeypox vaccine at a walk-in clinic at the North Jersey Community Research Initiative in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. On Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, U.S. health officials said they were making extra monkeypox vaccines available to places with events expected to draw crowds of men who have sex with men. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
A nurse administers a monkeypox vaccine at a walk-in clinic at the North Jersey Community Research Initiative in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. On Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, U.S. health officials said they were making extra monkeypox vaccines available to places with events expected to draw crowds of men who have sex with men. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
via Associated Press

The U.S. was slow to order doses of the monkeypox vaccine during the early days of the outbreak, which has since been declared a public health emergency. Millions of needed doses on order likely won’t be delivered until sometime in 2023, even though the U.S. invested more than $1 billion to develop the inoculations.

Bavarian Nordic said Thursday it had partnered with a company in Michigan to fill vials of the monkeypox vaccine and more quickly deliver those shots. But the company also has said it is “no longer certain” it can meet the demand for vaccines as cases continue to rise around the globe.

The federal government said Thursday it would ship 50,000 additional doses of a monkeypox treatment called TPOXX to jurisdictions over the next week. That drug, the lone treatment for the disease, is also extremely difficult to come by due to a mountain of bureaucratic red tape.

The shift in White House strategy comes amid a busy calendar of events for the LGBTQ community. Two large Pride events are scheduled for Labor Day weekend in Atlanta and New Orleans, and dozens of others are expected to take place in the fall. Southern Decadence in New Orleans is likely to draw more than 200,000 people.

There are also concerns the disease could spread when colleges and universities open in the fall, with many students living in dorms or attending parties.

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