Bavarian Nordic was contracted to develop a safer smallpox vaccine for the United States in the early 2000s amid fears that smallpox could be used as a weapon of bioterrorism against the country, says Sørensen. Since then, the company has produced and stocked Jynneos for the country.
Sørensen denies that there has been a bottleneck in the vaccine supply so far. The company has responded to all requests it has received since the outbreak began, he said July 28, which includes requests from all affected countries.
“So far, we haven’t seen any demand beyond our current capacity,” says Sørensen. “We’ve heard from multiple sources that there is a limitation, but we think it’s really a ghost.”
The ability to deliver these doses was, to a large extent, down to luck, says Sørensen. “When the epidemic arrived, we had … really coincidentally, the equivalent of 2 million bulk doses of our own vaccine [in addition to that owned by the US], and that was immediately converted into vials,” he says. “And that’s what we started selling.”
There are “very few” of these doses left now, but the company has “increased production”, he adds.
Will stored vaccines be shared?
With a bit of luck. In addition to the bulk vaccine stockpiled by Bavarian Nordic, the US Strategic National Stockpile, an emergency drug and medical supply store, includes millions of doses of ACAM2000 and thousands of doses of Jynneos.
It is believed that more countries have stocks of smallpox vaccine. “I don’t think it’s really clear which countries have stockpiles and how many vaccines they have, but it’s not just the United States,” Heymann says.
The WHO has called on countries that have the vaccine to share doses with those that don’t. Some scientists have pointed out that monkeypox vaccines have not been made available to African countries where the virus is endemic.
“I think we all need to be concerned about equitable access to vaccines,” Heymann says. But he points to the fact that these vaccines were developed for stocks initially. “They were sold to countries to stockpile in case smallpox was used as a bioterrorist weapon,” he says.
Without the will to create stocks of vaccines, we would not have Jynneos. “It’s a real Catch-22, isn’t it,” Hermann says. “It’s a complicated question. We need [incentives and financial support to make] these vaccines, but at the same time we need them to be shared as widely as possible.