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EU orders 110,000 monkeypox vaccine doses

June 14, 2022

The European Union has reached a deal on monkeypox vaccines, made through a new bloc-wide health authority. The first jabs are expected to arrive within weeks.

A woman holds a mock-up vial labeled "Monkeypox vaccine" and medical syringe
The deal was signed with the Danish pharmaceutical firm Bavarian NordicImage: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS

The European Commission on Tuesday said it had signed an agreement for some 110,000 monkeypox vaccine doses from the Danish biotech firm Bavarian Nordic.

Cases of the disease, which is endemic in parts of Africa, began to emerge in Europe and the United States last month. Some 900 patients have now been infected within the EU alone.

The bloc's health commissioner Stella Kyriakides announced the order on Tuesday, saying the order would be bought with EU funds and delivered to member states from the end of June.

Monkeypox came to international attention after recent outbreaks in multiple countries where it has never been seen before.

The deal was reached through the bloc's Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which was formed to avoid mistakes made in the EU's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines and antivirals against the disease will also be supplied to non-bloc members Norway and Iceland.

How bad is the latest outbreak?

The current international outbreak has seen more than 1,600 confirmed cases, predominantly in Europe, but also in North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

The disease is usually only found and transmitted in the regions where it is endemic through bites from rodents or small animals.

It does not normally spread easily, but is understood to transmit through close contact with an infected person.

On Tuesday the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it will hold an emergency meeting on June 23 to determine whether monkeypox should be classified as a public health emergency of international concern — the highest level of warning which currently only includes COVID-19 and polio.

"The outbreak of monkeypox is unusual and concerning. For that reason I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the international health regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Germany is considering preventive vaccinations for anyone considered to be at a high risk of coming into contact with the disease.

The high-risk category includes men who have sex with changing male partners, but also staff in specialist laboratories who work with infectious samples that contain monkeypox.

While the disease can be deadly, it is also treatable. Symptoms include fever, headaches, and pus-filled skin lesions.

The World Health Organization has called the spread of monkeypox a "containable situation," with WHO official Rosamund Lewis saying there's no evidence that the virus has mutated. 

ab, rc/dj (Reuters, dpa)