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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has approved an additional Bavarian Nordic Monkeypox Vaccine as the nation grapples with a surge of monkeypox infections. 

Last week, the HHS announced plans to allocate an extra 786,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, dramatically increasing the supply of monkeypox vaccine doses to states and jurisdictions. 

The additional vaccine allocation adds to the more than 340,000 doses that have already been delivered to jurisdictions.

JYNNEOS vaccine is manufactured by Bavarian Nordic and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent smallpox and monkeypox.

“Our goal is to stay ahead of this virus and end this outbreak,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

“We have a strategy to deploy these additional vaccine doses in a way that protects those at risk and limits the spread of the virus, while also working with states to ensure equitable and fair distribution.”

He added: “These vaccines are the result of years of federal investment and planning.”

The plan for allocating the doses considers two key factors: the total population of at-risk people and the number of new cases in each jurisdiction. 

The HHS said the strategy ensures that jurisdictions have the doses needed to complete the second dose of this two-dose vaccine regimen for those vaccinated over the past month.

“Our vaccine allocation strategy allows us to be responsive to where we are seeing cases now and helps us stay ahead of where this outbreak might go in the future,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. 

“With these additional doses, more will be available for those who are most in need as we work together to contain the outbreak.”

As of Aug. 1, there were 5,811 total confirmed cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus in the U.S; 243 cases in the District of Columbia and 129 and 105 in neighboring states Maryland and Virginia, respectively. 

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is spread through skin-to-skin contact, surfaces and respiratory secretions. 

Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

According to the CDC, monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. 

Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. 

Before the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries.

Within days of the first reported cases in the U.S. in May, the HHS said it rapidly began deploying vaccines and treatments to states and jurisdictions. 

In addition to vaccines, the Biden-Harris administration has increased the availability of monkeypox tests nationwide by partnering with five commercial laboratories. 

The administration said since the start of the current outbreak, testing capacity has increased to 80,000 per week – up from 6,000 per week.

“Making these additional doses of JYNNEOS available represents the latest step to support public health officials from states and jurisdictions in responding to the monkeypox outbreak,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said. “These experts understand their communities and are helping to ensure equitable distribution.”

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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