The Department of Health and Human Services failed to request vaccine supplies to stem the rising tide of monkeypox in the early days of the outbreak, prompting shipments to be delayed until the end of the year, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Biden administration officials told the newspaper that by the time the federal government placed orders for the vaccine from a manufacturer in Denmark, the company had already booked other customers in countries facing their own outbreaks of the disease.
The US, which has invested more than $1 billion in vaccine development, will be able to distribute only about 1.1 million doses in the coming weeks, far short of the 3.5 million that health officials say is needed, they added the Times. An additional 500,000 doses are expected in the US in October, but millions more on order likely won’t be delivered until sometime in 2023.
The US currently has the highest number of confirmed monkeypox cases in the world after the first case was identified in May. There are more than 6,600 known infections, with more than a third of these occurring in New York and California. Cases so far have almost exclusively affected gay and bisexual men, but health officials stress that anyone can contract monkeypox, which is spread primarily through close physical contact.
There have been no deaths linked to monkeypox in the US
The Biden administration has been criticized for faltering in its response to the outbreak. USA it once had about 20 million doses of vaccine stored in freezers but allowed to expire without being replenished. Hundreds of thousands of vials were sitting in Denmark in May when the outbreak hit American shores, but it took weeks for the government to claim most of them.
The delivery delay presents a new struggle that mirrors the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. actually owns about 16.5 million doses of the vaccine stored in Denmark by Bavarian manufacturer Nordic, the Times reported. However, the highly specialized process of transferring these doses from bulk storage sites to individualized doses is limited, and other countries ordered the manufacturer to do so before the US.
Officials hope a domestic manufacturing company could speed up the timeline, but it is still expected to take months to set up a factory.
The effort comes amid growing criticism that the US has not done enough to quickly contain the spread of the disease. Several states — New York, California and Illinois — have declared public health emergencies because of the monkeypox outbreak, and vaccine supplies are far behind demand.
Many high-risk people have struggled to get appointments, and some states have opted to give patients only one of the recommended two-dose regimens to make their shots last longer.
President Joe Biden followed two senior emergency responders; to manage the government’s handling of the smallpox outbreak. The White House said Robert Fenton, a regional administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and former acting head of the agency, is the White House smallpox coordinator. Dr. will work as his deputy. Dimitris Daskalakis, who heads the Division of HIV Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.