Bavarian Nordic was hired to develop a safer smallpox vaccine for the United States in the early 2000s amid fears that smallpox could be used as a bioterrorism weapon against the country, Sørensen says. The company has produced and stocked Jynneos for the country over the years since.
Sørensen denies that there has been any bottleneck in vaccine supply so far. The company has fulfilled all requests it has received since the outbreak began, it said on July 28, which includes requests from all affected countries.
“So far we haven’t seen any requests that exceed our current capacity,” says Sørensen. “We’ve heard from multiple sources that there is a limitation, but we believe it’s actually a phantom.”
The ability to deliver these doses has been largely down to luck, says Sørensen. “When the outbreak came, 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 turned into vials right away,” he says. “And that’s what we started selling.”
There are now “very few” of these doses left, but the company has “increased production”, he adds.
Will stored vaccines be shared?
Hopefully. In addition to the bulk vaccine stored by Bavarian Nordic, the US Strategic National Stockpile, an emergency store of drugs and medical supplies, includes millions of doses of ACAM2000 and thousands of doses of Jynneos.
More countries are believed to have stocks of smallpox vaccine. “I don’t think it’s really known which countries have stocks and how much vaccine they have, but it’s not just the United States,” Heymann says.
The WHO has called on nations that have the vaccine to share doses with those that do not. Some scientists have noted that monkeypox vaccines have not been made available in African countries where the virus is endemic.
“I think we should all be concerned about equitable access to vaccines,” says Heymann. But the fact that these vaccines were developed for reservations to begin with stands out. “They were sold to countries for storage in case smallpox was used as a bioterrorist weapon,” he says.
Without the drive to build vaccine stocks, we wouldn’t have Jynneos. “It’s a real Catch-22, isn’t it,” Hermann says. “It is 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.”