Poor logistics, planning and clunky systems have plagued America’s introduction of the monkeypox vaccine, state-level officials say — compounding the dire situation already created by the nation’s lack of immunization.
Officials from 20 states told the New York Times that the way the federal government is dishing out gunfire is inefficient and flawed. Many shipments ended up in the wrong state. Local officials also had little ability to track when the surges would arrive, limiting their ability to plan distribution. Sometimes the recordings arrived improperly labeled or packaged – resulting in the recordings being spoiled.
These mistakes make America’s already scanty access to the shots worse. According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal officials have made 1.1 million vaccines available to states and shipped 600,000 to local health officials. Experts estimate that vaccinated men who have sex with other men alone need at least three million doses – the highest risk group.
These problems arise as America’s monkeypox outbreak — the largest in the world to date — continues to spread. The CDC reported 419 new cases as of Friday’s most recent update, bringing the national case count to 11,177. No deaths have been reported in the United States as part of the outbreak.
“Our response is completely inefficient and is breaking the backs of state and local emergency responders… [I’ve never] I’ve seen this level of frustration and stress,” Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, told the Times.
Of the 20 states that have reported problems, more than half are ruled by Democrats. This signals that these frustrations are not a political ploy.
The Jynneos vaccine, which is at the heart of the nationwide fight against monkeypox, is manufactured by Danish company Bavarian Nordic. It was originally directed against smallpox but is effective against the tropical virus since they belong to the same orthopoxvirus family.
The vaccine will be distributed directly from the National Strategic Stockpile – not through the VTrckS system used to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine across the country.
Officials have complained that the system used for monkeypox is clunky, inefficient and doesn’t give them enough information about the status of their order.
Currently, each state has five different locations where recordings are delivered. Local officials are then responsible for distribution within the states.
For larger states like California and Texas, this can make simply shipping shots to areas that aren’t close to any of the five different delivery locations a problem.
Also, local authorities have little idea when the shots will arrive. They don’t get tracking data, making it difficult to schedule transportation for them.
Access to the Jynneos vaccine has been restricted in the US with only 1.1 million doses made available and 600,000 distributed to local officials so far (file photo)
“We had no way of tracking vaccine shipments, when they were actually shipped or when they were going to arrive… they just showed up without notice.” Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations at the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the Times.
Sometimes packages are not clearly labeled as vaccines – which can result in vaccines not being properly stored upon arrival.
Jabs also often end up in the wrong place. A shipment of 5,000 cans bound for Fort Lauderdale, Fla. landed in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi before reaching its destination in Sunshine State.
The Times reports that cans shipped to Idaho and Minnesota were unusable due to poor packaging.
The federal government responded to those complaints by saying the aim of the strategic stockpile was to eject shots as quickly as possible – rather than using the ordering system used during Covid.
These complaints arise as the federal government plans to overhaul how the shots are introduced. Not logistically, however, but by shortening the cans to expand the limited supplies.
Federal officials plan to administer doses of the vaccine as small as 0.1 milliliters (mL) — a massive drop from the standard 0.5 mL dose.
They believe that using an intradermal injection – which delivers the vaccine between the layers of skin rather than under the skin’s fat – will ensure the injection is just as effective.
But there are some questions about whether this is the right move.
In 2015, researchers found that smallpox vaccines were just as effective when given in smaller doses when injected intradermally.
Paul Chaplin, CEO of Bavarian Nordic, published an open letter to Dr. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, in which he expressed concern about the lack of data to support the plan.
The Danish pharma giant is calling for more studies into the effectiveness of the smaller doses to be conducted before the nation overhauls its vaccine strategy.
Currently, injections are mostly reserved for men who have sex with other men – although some exposed individuals have been granted the injection as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, the monkeypox outbreak continues to spiral across the nation. Almost 6,000 of the 11,177 total cases reported in America so far have occurred since August 1.
New York still accounts for the bulk of the cases, having reported 2,295 since the virus was first found in the United States in May. A majority of these cases are in New York City.
California (1,945 confirmed cases of monkeypox) and Florida (1,085) are the only other states that have each recorded more than 1,000 cases.