As monkeypox threatens to become the latest global health concern, Bavarian Nordic has suddenly become very popular. In 2019, its Jynneos vaccine became the only shot approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat smallpox, as well as monkeypox, which is closely related but less severe. And now that the infectious disease is spreading quickly among countries where it is not considered endemic, a growing number of governments are reaching out to Paul Chaplin, who runs the Danish pharmaceutical company. We spoke with Chaplin about the vaccine, the potential for increasing production, and how the company might cope with access issues raised by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an edited version of our conversation…
So tell me about the vaccine. When did you get started on this?
We began in 2000, quite a while ago, actually. We began on our own with a Phase 1 study and around that time, a number of governments were looking to create stockpiles of old-style smallpox vaccine.… These were earlier generations [of vaccines] that were very effective and helped eradicate smallpox by 1980, but there are a number of serious side effects…. If you’re an immune-compromised individual, such as someone with HIV, or have skin allergies, you can get a lethal side effect. And there’s also a common side effect in which one in every 150 people who get the first- or second-generation vaccine can have heart swelling, which can be fatal.
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