The Biden administration announced on Friday that it had placed an order for 500,000 doses of a vaccine that protects against monkeypox, following reports of several dozen cases of the disease appearing in the United States.
Health officials said that vaccines were ordered to help show citizens that steps have been taken to deal with the spread of the disease, reported the Associated Press. The vaccine, Jynneos, is produced by the biotech company Bavarian Nordic. It is spread across two doses.
“We have the vaccines and treatments we need to respond,” remarked Dawn O’Connell, a U.S. health official who overlooks the government’s supply of emergency treatments and vaccines.
Monkeypox is a rare disease from the same viral family as smallpox that spreads mostly via direct close or sexual contact with an infected person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested in an alert that the threat posed to the general population is “low.” Symptoms of the disease often start out like the flu, but they can also include rashes and swollen bumps on the body and face — which can turn into lesions and leave permanent severe scarring — as well as swelling of lymph nodes.
Back in May, Bavarian Nordic announced that the Biden administration had placed a nearly $120 million dollar order for the company’s smallpox vaccines, which are also effective against monkeypox, according to Fortune. The company also announced that the U.S. has the option to buy $180 million more — working out to be roughly 13 million doses.
“We are pleased to announce the exercise of the first options under our contract with the U.S. government to deliver a freeze-dried version of the smallpox vaccine with an improved shelf-life, which will be manufactured at our new fill and finish facility,” said Paul Chaplin, president and CEO of Bavarian Nordic, in a statement. “This marks a significant milestone in our long-standing partnership with the U.S. government to ensure availability of life-saving vaccines for the entire population.”
President Joe Biden remarked after the order in May that the U.S. has enough smallpox vaccines to handle a potential monkeypox problem, reported USA Today. He added that he does not think monkeypox is as concerning as COVID-19 was when it first appeared.
Since 2003, Bavarian Nordic has worked with the U.S. government to help develop and distribute nearly 30 million doses of the smallpox vaccine. The company also announced in May that an unspecified European country will obtain the vaccine for monkeypox, reported Fortune.