FDA expands monkeypox vaccine access, LGBTQ coalition forms to address spread

Artistic representation of the monkeypox virus. Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the JYNNEOS vaccine on Monday to increase monkeypox vaccination access.

Also on Monday, a coalition of LGBTQ organizations and pharmaceutical company Gilead announced a push to address monkeypox as it hits the LGBTQ community disproportionately.

“In recent weeks the monkeypox virus has continued to spread at a rate that has made it clear our current vaccine supply will not meet the current demand,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “The FDA quickly explored other scientifically appropriate options to facilitate access to the vaccine for all impacted individuals. By increasing the number of available doses, more individuals who want to be vaccinated against monkeypox will now have the opportunity to do so.” 

JYNNEOS, the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccine, was approved in 2019 for prevention of smallpox and monkeypox disease in adults 18 years of age and older determined to be at high risk for smallpox or monkeypox infection, the FDA said in a statement. JYNNEOS is administered beneath the skin (subcutaneously) as two doses, four weeks apart. For individuals 18 years of age and older determined to be at high risk of monkeypox infection, the authorization allows for a fraction of the JYNNEOS dose to be administered between the layers of the skin (intradermally). Two doses of the vaccine will still be needed.

The agency said that the change will expand access five-fold.

Illinois declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Aug. 1 with the federal government declaring it on Aug. 4. Most Illinois cases have been in the Chicago area and largely among men who have sex with men.

The coalition that formed to address the spread includes GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and NMAC. Gilead will be donating $5 million in grant funding to support education and support in areas with monkeypox outbreaks.

“As we saw with HIV, COVID-19, and now MPV, disinformation continues to challenge the LGBTQ+ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. “This new collaboration will enable creating and distributing content and resources to help our community know the facts and to understand prevention and treatment for MPV. When communities receive accurate, timely information, they are empowered to take appropriate action, leading to long-lasting, positive health outcomes.”

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 528 MPV infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, at 43 sites in 16 countries. Of that group, 98% of the cases were among gay or bisexual men and 41% were living with HIV.