(WASHINGTON) — Starting Monday, an additional 360,000 vials of monkeypox vaccine will be available, potentially enough for 1.8 million shots in arms using the administration’s new approach and a number that will nearly triple the U.S. supply of vaccines available so far, the White House Monkeypox Response Team announced Thursday.
The expansion of supply stems from a strategy the administration rolled out last week that changed the recommendation for how to inject the vaccines, moving from a deeper injection to a shallower, intradermal one that uses only one-fifth of the vaccine but still carries the same efficacy, officials say, allowing the administration to stretch doses five-fold.
But it’s unclear how widely this new approach has been embraced on the ground.
Data is still lagging on the administration’s monkeypox approach, making it difficult to know how many more people have been able to get vaccinated with this new strategy and where it’s being implemented. Without that data, it’s impossible to know whether the 360,000 vials the administration is shipping out will actually be stretched by clinics on the ground to result in 1.8 million shots in arms, as the administration hopes.
Some clinics aren’t yet trained in this injection method, and hesitation about intradermal administration from the vaccine manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, has also fueled confusion.
Still, the administration’s public health officials were adamant on Thursday that localities are hopping on board, mentioning Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Fulton County, Georgia, as examples. Data will be coming in this week, they said.
And in an effort to encourage more places to get on board with the new approach, the White House stipulated that the new allocation of vaccines will be available only for states and jurisdictions that are using the intradermal strategy and have already used 90% of their current vaccine supplies.
“We’re hearing jurisdictions are very enthusiastic to be starting this,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House deputy monkeypox coordinator. “I think it’s exciting from the perspective of access.”
The White House also celebrated on Thursday the milestone of 1 million doses nationwide, an effort made possible because they’ve begun shipping doses out faster under the new strategy.
“Overall, as of today, HHS has delivered nearly 1 million doses of vaccines to states and cities,” said Bob Fenton, White House monkeypox coordinator, in a briefing with reporters Thursday.
“In fact, we have the largest Jynneos vaccine program of any country in the globe. And we’re not done,” he said.
The U.S. also has the most cases in the world, however, with over 13,500 cases in 49 states.
As for treatment, the government announced efforts to improve access on that front, too, announcing it’s dispatching 50,000 courses of TPOXX to at-risk areas to make it easier and quicker for patients to access the antiviral, which has been challenging to get so far.
“Our feet remain on the gas to do everything we can to end this outbreak,” Fenton said.
As monkeypox continues to overwhelmingly impact men who reported recent sexual contact with other men, the government is also launching a new program to make vaccines available to the LGBT community.
“We’re announcing that states and localities will be able to request and receive additional vaccines to support vaccination efforts at large LGBT events in the coming weeks and months,” Fenton said. The administration plans to launch the pop-up clinics at events like Black Pride in Atlanta and Southern Decadence in New Orleans, among others, to target black and brown communities that have disproportionately bared the brunt of monkeypox cases so far.
“HHS is launching a pilot program that will provide up to 50,000 doses from the National Stockpile to be made available for pride and other events that will have high attendance of gay and bisexual men,” Fenton said.
The administration emphasized the pilot program as an opportunity to bring the vaccine to populations most affected by the virus.
“Creating more opportunity for vaccine access is really allowing us to do interventions such as this and pilots to try to get vaccines closer to where the people are, rather than have people come to always try to find the vaccine,” Daskalakis said.
“It’s not just about vaccines, but also about clear communication about how the vaccine works,” he added.
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