Last Updated on May 21, 2022
Shortly after the first confirmed case of monkeypox was discovered in the United States, the U.S. government ordered millions of doses of a vaccine for the disease. Bavarian Nordic, the biotech company that produces the vaccine, has announced a $119 million order placed by the U.S., with the option to buy $180 million more if it wants. The vaccine — which protects against smallpox and monkeypox — was produced with U.S. support.
According to a report from Jordan Schachtel, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) has supported Bavarian Nordic with well over $100 million in grants. NIAD is currently led by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Bavarian Nordic, a Swedish company, became rich overnight thanks to its work on Ebola vaccines after a Central African outbreak in 2014. The company was referenced by Fauci during a Congressional hearing on the U.S. government’s Ebola response in 2015.
Bavarian Nordic received FDA approval for its vaccine in September of 2019, just two months before COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns were implemented across the world.
Additionally, Bavarian Nordic announced on Thursday that they were going to supply “an undisclosed European country” with Monkeypox vaccinations as well.
The order will convert existing smallpox vaccines, which are also effective against monkeypox, into freeze-dried versions with longer shelf lives. The converted vaccines will be manufactured in 2023 and 2024, Bavarian Nordic says.
Bavarian Nordic has worked with the U.S. government since 2003 to develop, manufacture and supply smallpox vaccines. The biotech company claims to have supplied nearly 30 million doses to the Department of Health and Human Services in that timespan.
Health authorities in the U.S. and Europe have recorded numerous cases of monkeypox in recent days. The smallpox-like disease was first discovered in 1958 and the first human case was reported in 1970. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, exhaustion and a rash that spreads across the body. It is fatal in up to 10% of infections.
The first U.S. case was detected on Wednesday while a number of cases have been recorded in Europe over the last week. Early reports from Europe seem to indicate that Monkeypox is only spreading within the gay community, as cases are being reported exclusively in gay men, Schachtel reported.
The FDA approved the “live, non-replicating” vaccine in 2019. According to a statement at the time, the vaccine was approved in order to guard against a smallpox release in an instance of biological warfare.
The disease no longer occurs in the natural world, though smallpox vials are stored in labs by a handful of countries, including the United States and Russia.
“Therefore, although naturally occurring smallpox disease is no longer a global threat, the intentional release of this highly contagious virus could have a devastating effect,” said Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research on the day of the vaccine’s approval. “Today’s approval reflects the U.S. government’s commitment to preparedness through support for the development of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and other medical countermeasures,” Marks added.