LONDON (AP) – A smaller dose of the monkeypox vaccine appears to still be effective and can be used to stretch the current supply by five times, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday, echoing a recommendation made earlier this month by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA).
The European Union (EU) drug regulator said in a statement that injecting people with just one fifth the regular dose of the smallpox vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic appeared to produce similar levels of antibodies against monkeypox as a full dose.
The approach calls for administering Bavarian Nordic’s vaccine with an injection just under the skin rather than into deeper tissue, a practice that may stimulate a better immune response. People still need to get two doses, about four weeks apart.
The EMA said national authorities could decide, “as a temporary measure” to use smaller doses of the vaccine to protect vulnerable people during the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the decision would allow the vaccination of five times as many people with the continent’s current supply.
“This ensures greater access to vaccination for citizens at risk and healthcare workers,” she said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the US FDA authorised a similar plan to extend the country’s monkeypox vaccine stocks. The technique has previously been used to stretch supplies of vaccines during other outbreaks.
The unusual recommendations from both regulators acknowledge the extremely limited global supplies of the Jynneos vaccine, originally developed against smallpox.
Bavarian Nordic is the only company that makes it and it expects to have about 16 million doses available this year. On Thursday, the US also announced a new agreement with a Michigan manufacturer to help speed production of 5.5 million vaccine vials recently ordered by the government.
The EMA authorised the vaccine in July based on experimental data that suggested it would work; the World Health Organization has estimated the shot is about 85 per cent effective at preventing monkeypox.
Globally, there are more than 40,000 cases of monkeypox, of which about half are in Europe.