Home / Science / Health /  Monkeypox: Vaccine demand rises, and just one small Danish company makes it

A Copenhagen company worked for nearly two decades to develop a vaccine and only six governments bought it. Within the last few weeks, orders have come in from dozens of countries around the globe and it is looking at whether it can operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to meet demand.

Bavarian Nordic is the world’s sole supplier of a licensed vaccine for monkeypox.

The World Health Organization in recent days declared the disease a public health emergency of global concern, the first time the organization has issued that designation for the reason that early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Global instances of monkeypox have gone above18,000.

In the previous couple of weeks, the organization has scrambled to ramp up manufacturing. It has postponed manufacturing plans for other vaccines, and shuffled allocations in order that it could make preliminary deliveries to as many nations as possible. Despite its efforts, worldwide supplies are nevertheless short, prompting a health authorities to provide simply one shot of the two-dose vaccine.

“It was a little bit like running on quicksand," said Chief Executive Paul Chaplin to WSJ.

The vaccine, called Jynneos in the U.S., wasn’t designed to fight monkeypox, a disease that until recently was rarely seen outside of certain parts of west and central Africa. Instead, it was developed, with funding from the U.S. government, as a defense against a theoretical threat: the deliberate or accidental reintroduction of smallpox.

Before the global monkeypox outbreak, only six countries had ever placed an order for Jynneos. Only two—the U.S. and Canada—had built up a meaningful stockpile, Mr. Chaplin added.

India has reported four cases of monkeypox so far 
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India has reported four cases of monkeypox so far  (AP)

Since the outbreak of monkeypox, the company has hiked its full-year financial outlook six times. Its expected full year revenue has more than doubled to around 2.7 billion to 2.9 billion Danish kroner, equivalent to about $380 million, and it now expects to nearly break even, having previously forecast a loss of 1.1 billion to 1.3 billion kroner. The share price has nearly tripled since mid-May.

Smallpox ranks as one of the deadliest diseases in human history, but it was eradicated four decades ago after a long-running vaccination campaign. Vials of the live virus are still kept for research purposes in high-security storage, and the technology exists to recreate it in the lab. The threat of its accidental or deliberate reintroduction has prompted some governments to keep at the ready stores of vaccines like Jynneos that can fight it.

Older smallpox vaccines are available, but governments are only using them in rare circumstances because they can have severe side effects. Other vaccine makers aren’t close to developing an alternative. Moderna Inc. said it was conducting early-stage research into potential monkeypox vaccines, but under normal development timelines would take years to develop a new shot from scratch.

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