Bavarian Nordic in talks to expand monkeypox vaccine output

A laboratory of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic, in Martinsried near Munich

By Natalie Grover

LONDON (Reuters) -Bavarian Nordic, the Danish company behind the vaccine being used to try to stem a global outbreak of monkeypox, is in talks to potentially expand production capacity, its CEO said on Monday.

The Copenhagen-based vaccine maker has a product with the brand name Jynneos, Imvamune or Imvanex depending on geography and which has U.S. and European approval to protect against monkeypox.

Bavarian has annual production capacity of 30 million doses, including the monkeypox vaccine and other vaccines it makes.

It can meet current demand of tens of millions of doses for the monkeypox vaccine, Chief Executive Paul Chaplin said in an interview with Reuters, but it is working with a U.S.-based contract manufacturer to expand its production capacity.

Chaplin said he hoped that process would be completed later this year, and added the company was also in early talks with others, including contract manufacturers and other vaccine makers, in case a further expansion is needed.

Cases of the usually mild viral disease have risen to more than 16,000 in over 75 countries, the World Health Organization said on Saturday, as it labelled the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Countries in Africa have experienced sporadic monkeypox outbreaks since the virus was discovered in humans in 1970. In Nigeria, an outbreak has been ongoing since 2017.

Before the current spate of cases, global health bodies were in discussions with Bavarian Nordic about supplying countries in Africa with the vaccine, Chaplin said, though since the latest outbreak there had been no requests from governments on the continent.

Like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy for HIV, people at high risk of contracting monkeypox - such as men who have sex with men - are being offered the vaccine in some European countries and the United States as a precautionary measure.

In addition, people who have been recently exposed to somebody who is infected, including healthcare workers, are also being invited to take the monkeypox vaccine.

In earlier stages of the outbreak, governments were looking for doses to vaccinate people quickly. Now, discussions are broadening to include stockpiles, said Chaplin.

Bavarian has received orders for millions of doses globally, including delivering nearly 7 million vaccine doses this year and next to the United States.

Earlier this month, Bavarian revealed that an unnamed European country had secured a 1.5 million dose supply that will also be delivered in 2022 and 2023, part of which will likely be stockpiled, he added.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Barbara Lewis and David Holmes)