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Monkeypox smallpox vaccine 

Monkeypox: Is there a vaccine?

A growing number of Western countries are facing an unusual epidemic of monkeypox, a virus that, as the name suggests, resembles smallpox. The disease was first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has since spread to other African countries.

The virus, which is less deadly than smallpox, has a life expectancy of two to four weeks. Symptoms can appear five to 21 days after infection.

monkeypox smallpox vaccine
This 1997 photo was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during an investigation of the monkeypox epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Symptoms usually begin with fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, or severe fatigue.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines are effective in protecting against monkeypox if administered properly before people are exposed to the virus. 

Monkeypox and smallpox are thus closely related. The CDC states that the current smallpox vaccine is "about 85% effective".

Although smallpox was eradicated in 1980, vaccination continues to protect the population from a possible return.

ACAM2000 and Jynneos vaccine

Two vaccines are currently licensed in the US to protect against smallpox: ACAM2000 and Jynneos, also known as Immune or Imvanex.

Jynneos is a vaccine used against smallpox and monkeypox. This version of the vaccine is non-replicating, meaning it is safer for people with weakened immune systems.

It is also safer than older vaccines because, unlike ACAM2000, there is no risk of the virus spreading to other people or other parts of the body during administration. Older vaccines can cause scarring and carry the risk of spreading the disease.

Who makes the vaccines?

Jerica Pitts, a spokeswoman for Pfizer, told the Associated Press that Pfizer does not manufacture the monkey vaccine.

However, Jynneos was developed by the Danish company Bavarian Nordic. It is the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for monkey cases in the US.

Moderna recently announced that it is beginning research into a vaccine for smallpox in monkeys. 

Cases in different countries

On 23 May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the recent outbreak of monkeypox does not require mass vaccination. It also indicates that measures such as hygiene and safe sex will help control transmission.

However, some countries have announced plans to make the monkey vaccine available to certain populations.

At the time of publication, WHO reported more than 250 confirmed cases with an unusual geographical distribution for the disease.

As of 25 May, 118 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in 12 EU/EEA Member States, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Other cases have been confirmed in Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. A suspected case has also been confirmed in Argentina.

The French health authority has recommended that a targeted vaccination campaign against monkeypox be launched on 24 May. The vaccination recommendation will be extended to vulnerable adults who have been in contact with a patient confirmed to have monkeypox.

Healthcare workers who have been in contact with an infected patient should also be vaccinated, according to the ECDPC.

There are currently three generations of monkeypox vaccines. The first and second generations provide immunity against monkeypox but can have severe side effects in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems.

The third-generation vaccine does not replicate in the body and is therefore suitable for people with weakened immune systems. The third generation monkeypox vaccine (Jynneos vaccine) should preferably be administered within 4 and 14 days after exposure to monkeypox.

On 24 May, Germany ordered 40 000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine in case the epidemic spreads in the country. On 25 May, Denmark announced that it would receive 200 monkey vaccines and was preparing to buy thousands more. Spain also said it would buy the Jynneos vaccine, but has not yet specified the number of doses. The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) said that the vaccine will be offered in contact cases. It also said the risk to the public is low.

Health authorities are closely monitoring the situation as the virus appears to be spreading in the community. This means that it is present in people who have not traveled to African areas.


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