Bavarian Nordic was contracted to develop a safer smallpox vaccine for the US in the early 2000s, amid fears that smallpox could be used as a bioterrorism weapon against the country, says Sørensen. The company has produced and stored Jynneos for the country in the years since.
Sørensen denies there has been any bottleneck in the supply of the vaccine so far. The company has fulfilled every request it has received since the start of the outbreak, he said on July 28—which includes requests from every affected country.
“We have not seen any requests so far that are exceeding our current capacity,” says Sørensen. “We have heard from multiple sources that there is a limitation, but we think it’s a ghost really.”
The ability to deliver these doses has, to a large extent, been down to luck, says Sørensen. “When the outbreak came, we had … really by coincidence, equivalent to 2 million doses in bulk of our own vaccine [in addition to that owned by the US], and that was converted into vials immediately,” he says. “And that was what we started to sell.”
There are “very few” of those doses left now, but the company has “scaled up production,” he adds.
Will stockpiled vaccines be shared?
Hopefully. In addition to the bulk vaccine stored by Bavarian Nordic, the US Strategic National Stockpile, an emergency store of medicines and medical supplies, includes millions of doses of ACAM2000 and thousands of doses of Jynneos.
More countries are thought to have stockpiles of smallpox vaccine. “I don’t think it’s really known which countries have stockpiles and how much vaccine they have, but it’s not only the US,” says Heymann.
The WHO has called on nations that have the vaccine to share doses with those that don’t. Some scientists have pointed out that the monkeypox vaccines have not been made available to the African countries where the virus is endemic.
“I think we all have to be concerned about equitable access to vaccines,” says Heymann. But he highlights the fact that these vaccines were developed for stockpiles to begin with. “They were sold to countries for stockpiles in the event that smallpox would be used as a bioterrorist weapon,” he says.
Without the drive to create vaccine stockpiles, we wouldn’t have Jynneos. “It’s a real Catch-22, isn’t it,” says Hermann. “It’s a complicated issue. 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.”