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Pfizer does not make vaccine for monkeypox

May 24, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Pfizer received FDA approval for a new monkeypox shot the day after the U.S. purchased millions of dollars worth of vaccine for the disease.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Pfizer does not make a monkeypox vaccine, nor did it recently receive approval for one, a company representative told The Associated Press. Jynneos, a vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox, is the only FDA-approved vaccine for monkeypox in the U.S. It was developed by the Danish company Bavarian Nordic.

THE FACTS: An unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and the U.S. has sparked misinformation on social media about potential efforts to control spread of the disease rarely found outside of Africa.

“One case of ‘MonkeyPox’ was found in Massachusetts this week... In less than 48 hours the United States Government had purchased 13 million MonkeyPox vaccines for $119 million. A day later, Pfizer received FDA approval for a New Monkey Pox Vaccine,” one widely shared tweet falsely claims.

Pfizer does not make a vaccine to target monkeypox, Jerica Pitts, a Pfizer spokesperson, told the AP in an email.

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms, including fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. More serious cases may result in a rash and lesions. The smallpox vaccine can be used for monkeypox.

In September 2019, the FDA approved Jynneos for use by people over the age of 18 who are at higher-risk for smallpox and monkeypox infection. Jynneos, developed by Bavarian Nordic, is the only vaccine approved by the FDA to prevent monkeypox. This vaccine is also part of the nation’s stockpile in case of a public health emergency.

Last week, Bavarian Nordic announced that the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) had exercised options to order Jynneos vaccine doses worth $119 million. The U.S. still has options to order $180 million more from the company. If exercised, the company said the total $299 million order would be approximately 13 million doses.

While social media users suggested the order was made because of recent monkeypox cases, the company says the order was part of an already existing contract to obtain smallpox vaccines for the national stockpile. The stockpile already contains doses of the Jynneos vaccine that were delivered under previous contracts.

“Our recent order from BARDA as you refer to has no relation whatsoever to the current monkeypox outbreak,” Thomas Duschek, a spokesperson for Bavarian Nordic, said in an email to the AP.

“We have worked with the US government and BARDA for almost 20 years to develop and supply a non-replicating smallpox vaccine for the national stockpile in the event of a bioterror attack or natural re-emergence of smallpox,” Duschek said.

Suzanne Sellman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also confirmed in an email to the AP that the BARDA purchase “was part of standard and ongoing preparedness efforts, and unrelated to specific events.”

The vaccine is available to be deployed for monkeypox, Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said in a statement.

The latest drug approved by the FDA to treat smallpox is Tpoxx, also known as tecovirimat, which is made by Siga Technologies. While Tpoxx is approved to treat monkeypox in Europe, it hasn’t been approved by the FDA to treat monkeypox.

Health officials around the world are monitoring the situation closely since, for the first time, the rare disease appears to be spreading among people who didn’t travel to Africa, where monkeypox is endemic. They stress, however, that the risk to the general population is low, the AP reported.

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This article was updated to correct the size of the government’s Jynneos vaccine order. An earlier version said it had ordered 13 million doses worth $119 million. The U.S. has options for 13 million doses worth a total value of $299 million, but has so far only exercised options for $119 million of that total.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.