After weeks of delays, nearly 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will soon be available for distribution, U.S. health regulators said Wednesday.
The announcement comes amid growing criticism that authorities have been too slow in deploying the vaccine, potentially missing the window to contain what could soon become an entrenched infectious disease.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration said it had finished the necessary inspections at Bavarian Nordic's facility in Denmark, where the company fills vials of the vaccine. The FDA said via Twitter on Wednesday that the certification had been finalized. The doses are already in the U.S. "so that they would be ready to be distributed once the manufacturing changes were approved," the agency said.
The U.S. already has sent more than 310,000 doses of the two-shot Jynneos vaccine to state and local health departments. But clinics in San Francisco, New York and other major cities say they still don't have enough shots to meet demand.
There were more than 4,600 reported monkeypox cases in the U.S. as of late Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday officials would announce more vaccine allocations on Thursday.
Officials at the San Francisco Department of Health welcomed the news, saying they need many thousands more vaccine doses than the 7,800 they have received to date. "Without enough vaccine supply, we would have trouble fulfilling our basic duty of keeping our communities safe," the agency said in a statement.
Washington, D.C., officials said Wednesday they would join their counterparts in San Francisco, New York City and other cities who have stopped offering appointments for second vaccine doses due to short supplies. They said the single-dose strategy would allow them to "vaccinate more people at risk and slow the spread of monkeypox in the community more quickly."
The monkeypox virus mainly spreads through skin-on-skin contact, but it can also transmit through touching linens used by someone with the infection. The vast majority of cases reported have been in men who have sex with men, though health officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus.
People with monkeypox may experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. Many in the outbreak have developed zit-like bumps on many parts of the body.