As with Covid, corporate interests are taking priority over getting monkeypox vaccines to people.
Britain expects to run out of vaccines in the next couple of weeks, with no further deliveries planned until late September. The sole supplier of the only approved vaccine for monkeypox is a Danish pharmaceutical company called Bavarian Nordic. In a case of almost unbelievably unlucky timing, the company’s bulk production line has been closed for refurbishment. Even more, ironically, the company has millions of doses in the freezer, but getting them into vials and ready to go isn’t a small job. The company is looking for other factories to help with this.
But even when it does happen, the overwhelming bulk of the doses have been bought by the US, with a trickle going to other high-income countries. Africa is so far the only continent to suffer more than a couple of deaths from monkeypox to date, yet it hasn’t received a single dose of vaccine so far.
The vaccine – known as Jynneos, Imvamune or Imvanex – was developed as a safe immunisation for smallpox, and was being kept on hold in case of a biological terrorist attack. It was funded, to the tune of $2bn, by the US government, but like most medicines, it was patented. Bavarian Nordic, which holds the patent, dictates who can make the vaccine, how many doses are made, who gets to buy them and at what price.
Bavarian Nordic will make a huge windfall, producing and selling as much as the company can manage. Its shareholders have already seen the price of their stock triple.