“The approval (from the US health authorities) received in 2019 (…) has suddenly become very, very relevant to international health,” smiles, at the headquarters of the biotech company in the port of Copenhagen, its vice president Rolf Sass. Sorensen.
Surprised by the spread of the disease outside the eleven countries in West and Central Africa where it is endemic, Mr. Sass Sørensen says, however, that he can meet the demand, even with a single production plant.
“With the current demand, we can easily supply the world market. We have a few million doses in bulk, we can bottle them and ensure that the current epidemic is treated, ”he explains to AFP.
Bavarian Nordic has an annual production capacity of 30 million doses at its factory north of the Nordic capital.
Its smallpox vaccine is a 3rd generation serum, that is, a non-replicating live vaccine (which does not replicate in the human body), marketed under the name of Imvanex in Europe where it has been authorized since 2013, by Jynneos in the United States . and Imvamune in Canada.
Indicated for the first time against smallpox in adults, a disease considered eradicated for about forty years, the treatment requires two doses.
According to Sass Sørensen, the vaccine is “available in many countries” and can be given before or after exposure to the disease.
“If you get vaccinated within a few days of being exposed, you can also be protected,” he says.
After getting the green light from US authorities three years ago, Bavarian Nordic is working to expand its European registry for monkeypox.
Within the EU, the Hera health authority (created in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic) has purchased nearly 100,000 vaccines that will be available to the Twenty-seven, as well as to Norway and Germany.
The first deliveries are expected by the end of June for priority countries, European authorities said.
The United States also announced that it had replenished its stock with an additional 500,000 doses in addition to 100 million units of another smallpox vaccine from the French company Sanofi. Canada and Denmark have done the same.
Beyond these announcements, the Danish laboratory jealously protects the nationality of its sponsors.
“We don’t reveal the names of the countries, but we have requests from all over the world: the United States, European countries, Asian countries, the Middle East,” says Mr. Sass Sørensen.
The amounts of the contracts have not been made public either, but for Bavarian Nordic, it is a stroke of luck that has allowed it to raise its forecasts for 2022 four times in three weeks.
No mass vaccination
Despite the exponential increase in cases, the WHO does not recommend “mass” vaccination at this stage.
In France, the High Health Authority has recommended administering a single dose of the vaccine to people who are risk contacts and have been vaccinated against smallpox before 1980, except immunosuppressed people.
The United States has vaccination of contact cases.
A smallpox drug, tecovirimat, produced by the Siga laboratory, was approved by the EMA for monkeypox earlier this year, but is not yet widely available.
Most often mild, the illness usually clears up on its own, after two to three weeks of flu-like symptoms followed by rashes.
From January 1 to June 15, more than 2,103 cases and one death have been reported to the WHO in 42 countries. Europe is at the center of the spread of the virus, with 1,773 confirmed cases, or 84% of the global total.
In addition to the smallpox vaccine, Bavarian Nordic also produces vaccines against tick-borne encephalitis, rabies, Ebola, and develops sera against the respiratory viruses Covid-19 and RSV.