Monkeypox Vaccine Maker Considers 24-Hour Emergency Production
Bavarian Nordic A/S, the only company with a vaccine approved for monkeypox, said it’s preparing to run production through the night to meet surging demand after the virus outbreak was declared a global emergency.
The flare-up of monkeypox, which has spread to about 16,000 people in more than 70 countries in just a few months, was declared a public-health emergency of international concern by the head of the World Health Organization over the weekend. This is the highest level of alert that aims to marshal more resources globally to curb the outbreak and is the first such ruling since coronavirus started sweeping around the world.
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“Whatever more demand we will face, we expect to meet it with our own resources,” Rolf Sass Sorensen, Bavarian’s head of investor relations, said by phone. “One very straight-forward solution is to run our production facility overnight and get more people in to work shifts.”
The Danish vaccine maker can produce 30 million doses per year and so far hasn’t turned down any orders from governments seeking to protect their populations. Sorensen said the drug company was already running longer hours now, and night shifts and other tweaks would bring production above 30 million but declined to provide a specific number.
Bavarian said earlier on Monday that its vaccine Imvanex now has permission to be labeled for monkeypox and another disease caused by the vaccinia virus in Europe. The label extension comes after similar clearances in Canada and the US. The stock rose as much as 10% in early trading in Copenhagen and has jumped more than 150% since the outbreak.
The WHO’s decision “raises the prospect of further government orders for Imvanex, the only vaccine currently available,” Peter Verdult, an analyst at Citigroup, wrote in a note. He estimated that at least 50% of Bavarian’s production capacity could be allocated to the shot and said Bavarian may get about $100 per dose on average.
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Bavarian has the ability to contract other producers to make the vaccine, but it would “take a lot of time and would be expensive so we’re trying to avoid that,” Sorensen said. He also said it was highly unlikely that governments would issue compulsory licenses to allow other manufacturers to make the vaccine through their own channels.
“The product is not something that easily can be copied so it’s highly unlikely that anyone but us would be able to quickly ramp up production of the vaccine,” he said. “It’s not a standard type of product that can be copied; you need a lot of expertise to get the vaccine to work. I would say it’s an art form.”
–With assistance from James Cone.
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Contributor: Christian Wienberg/Bloomberg