Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox if an outbreak in Germany becomes more severe, but officials are banking on other precautionary measures for now.
Bavarian Nordic, a vaccine company based in Denmark and the Bavarian capital of Munich, developed a vaccine based on the modified Vaccinia Ankara smallpox virus.
“The vaccine is certainly a further development of the conventional smallpox vaccines and is specifically designed to be a safer alternative,” Heinz Weidenthaler, Bavarian Nordic’s Vice President for Clinical Strategies told Reuters TV on Tuesday (May 24).
“The vaccine actually originated at the Bavarian State Vaccine Institute and was developed there in the 1960s and 1970s, when the vaccination campaign against the original smallpox was still ongoing”, he added.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach earlier on Tuesday announced that that measures such as an isolation period of at least 21 days recommended for infected people would suffice for now to contain the outbreak.
He said the outbreak of monkeypox could be contained and did not signal the start of a new pandemic, adding that early intervention can prevent the pathogen from becoming firmly established in communities.
So far, five cases have been registered in Germany, all men, said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, speaking at a joint news conference with Lauterbach.
A World Health Organization official on Monday issued similar guidance, saying the outbreak does not require mass vaccinations because measures like hygiene and safe sexual behaviour will help control the spread.
The WHO has registered more than 250 confirmed and suspected monkeypox infections, with a geographic spread that is unusual for the disease which is endemic in parts of west and central Africa but rare elsewhere. Many but not all of the cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, with the WHO targeting sexual transmission in particular.