Monkeypox vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic ready to meet demand
COPENHAGEN, June 23, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - As the lone laboratory manufacturing a
licensed vaccine against monkeypox, Danish company Bavarian Nordic has seen
its order book fill up as the usually rare disease spreads around the world.
"The approval we got in 2019, when we only sold maybe a few hundred doses,
all of a sudden became very, very relevant for international health," the
company's vice president Rolf Sass Sorensen says with a smile at the biotech
company's headquarters in Copenhagen's harbour.
Bavarian Nordic was caught by surprise by the disease's sudden spread earlier
this year to dozens of countries outside West and Central Africa where it had
previously been generally confined.
But Sorensen says he is confident the company can meet global demand even
though it only has one production facility.
"With the current demand we can easily supply the global market. We have a
couple of million doses in bulk that we can put into vials and make sure that
the current outbreak is handled," he told AFP in an interview.
Bavarian Nordic has an annual production capacity of 30 million vaccine
The Danish company's smallpox vaccine, marketed as Imvanex in Europe, Jynneos
in the US and Imvamune in Canada, is a third-generation serum (a live vaccine
that does not replicate in the human body).
It has been licensed in Europe since 2013.
It was designed against smallpox in adults, a disease considered eradicated
some 40 years ago, and requires two doses for inoculation.
- World clamouring for vaccine -
According to Sorensen, the vaccine is in stock "in many countries" and can
also be used against monkeypox, both before and after exposure to the virus.
"If you are vaccinated a few days after you are exposed, you can also be
protected", he explained.
After getting the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
three years ago to use its smallpox vaccine against monkeypox, Bavarian
Nordic is now applying to do the same in Europe.
The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA),
created by the European Commission during the Covid-19 pandemic, has already
bought more than 100,000 doses for the 27 EU countries as well as Norway and
The first deliveries are due at the end of June for those countries deemed a
The United States has also filled up their stocks with an order for 500,000
doses, in addition to 100 million doses of an older smallpox vaccine
previously made by France's Sanofi but which is known to have some side
Canada and Denmark have also placed orders with Bavarian Nordic.
Other than these announcements made by the countries themselves, Bavarian
Nordic -- which also makes vaccines against tick-borne encephalitis, rabies,
Ebola, Covid-19 and the RS respiratory virus -- does not disclose which
countries have placed orders.
"But I can say we have procurement requests from all over the world. We have
procurement requests from the US, European countries, Middle Eastern
countries, Asian countries", Sorensen said.
The value of the contracts hasn't been disclosed either, but for Bavarian
Nordic it has clearly been a windfall: it raised its 2022 full-year outlook
four times in three weeks.
- Rarely fatal -
Despite the rise in monkeypox cases worldwide, the World Health Organization
has not recommended that countries mass vaccinate their populations at this
The United States has so far recommended the vaccination of people who have
been in close contact with an infected person, while France has recommended a
single dose for contact cases in risk groups who were vaccinated for smallpox
The European Medicines Agency approved a smallpox medication, Tecovirimat,
for treatment of monkeypox earlier this year, but it is not yet widely
Most people recover from monkeypox within several weeks and the disease has
only been fatal in rare cases.
Symptoms include lesions, eruptions on the face, palms or soles, scabs,
fever, muscle ache and chills.
From January 1 to June 15, the WHO registered more than 2,103 cases and one
death in 42 countries.
Europe has been the epicentre of the outbreak, with 1,773 confirmed cases, or
84 percent of the global total.