Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox if an outbreak in Germany becomes more severe, but officials are banking on other precautionary measures for now.
Speaking at a press conference, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that measures such as an isolation period of at least 21 days recommended for infected people would suffice for now to contain the outbreak.
"If infections spread further we will want to be prepared for possible ring vaccinations that are not yet recommended at this point but might become necessary," said Lauterbach, referring to the strategy of vaccinating contacts of an infected person.
He said the outbreak of monkeypox could be contained and did not signal the start of a new pandemic, adding that early intervention can prevent the pathogen from becoming firmly established in communities.
So far, five cases have been registered in Germany, all men, said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, also speaking at the press conference.
A World Health Organization official on Monday issued similar guidance, saying the outbreak does not require mass vaccinations because measures like hygiene and safe sexual behaviour will help control the spread.
The WHO has registered more than 250 confirmed and suspected monkeypox infections, with a geographic spread that is unusual for the disease which is endemic in parts of west and central Africa but rare elsewhere.
U.S. health officials said this week that there are more than 1,000 doses of the Bavarian Nordic vaccine in the national stockpile and they expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks.
The vaccine is branded Jynneos in the United States where it is approved for use against smallpox and monkeypox. It is also approved for smallpox in Europe, where it is called Imvanex, but has been provided for off-label use in response to monkeypox cases.
The Danish company said last week it secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply Imvanex in response to new cases of monkeypox.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Riham Alkousaa Editing by Madeline Chambers, Kirsten Donovan)