U.S. Buys Millions of Monkeypox Vaccines As Massachusetts Man Infected

The U.S. government has ordered millions of doses of a vaccine that protects against monkeypox. The news follows the first confirmed case in the states—a man in Massachusetts—following an outbreak in the U.K.

The order amounts to a $119 million order for Jynneos vaccines, which are used for the prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox. It was announced by biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic, which makes the vaccine, on Wednesday.

The order will convert bulk vaccines, which have already been made and invoiced under previous contracts with the U.S. government, into freeze-dried versions which have an improved shelf-life.

The total government contract with Bavarian Nordic amounts to $299 million, which would provide 13 million freeze-dried doses.

It's expected that the first doses will be manufactured by next year with further doses made in 2024 and 2025.

The order comes amid concern about monkeypox cases that have been reported in the U.K. with one case also being reported in Massachusetts.

Monkeypox is a viral disease first discovered in 1958 among colonies of monkeys that were being kept for research. The first human case was recorded in 1970.

Symptoms in humans may include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Within a day or a few days of the fever, patients then develop a rash that spreads across the body.

The illness tends to last for two to four weeks and has been shown to cause death in as many as 10 percent of people who catch it.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed a single case of monkeypox in an adult male who had recently traveled to Canada. The health department said the case "poses no risk to the public" and that the individual is hospitalized in good condition.

It is the first case of monkeypox to be detected in the country this year. In 2021, two U.S. cases were reported.

A stock photo shows a medical professional holding a syringe. The U.S. government has ordered a batch of freeze-dried vaccines that protect against the monkeypox virus. Meyer & Meyer/Getty

"DPH is working closely with the CDC, relevant local boards of health, and the patient's health care providers to identify individuals who may have been in contact with the patient while he was infectious," the DPH said in a statement.

Elsewhere, though, there have been bigger outbreaks. This month alone, the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected a total of nine monkeypox cases in the country with more recent cases predominantly in gay or bisexual men.

Notably, the two latest cases had no travel links to another country where monkeypox is endemic, so it's possible they were transmitted locally.

Monkeypox has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but the UKHSA has advised people, especially those who are gay or bisexual, to be alert to unusual rashes or skin marks on their body, particularly on the genitals.

The monkeypox virus is transmitted via contact with an infected person or animal.

According to the CDC, the virus can infect people by entering the body through broken skin, entering the respiratory tract, by entering mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth, and direct contact with body fluids. Animals may infect people via bites or scratches and through bush meat preparation.