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What type of vaccine will work against monkeypox?

  • Published
    1st Aug, 2022

Since the WHO declared monkeypox, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), governments around the world are initiating steps towards developing or even sourcing a vaccine against monkeypox.


Monkeypox Virus:

  • The monkeypox virus belongs to a family of viruses called orthopoxviruses, which is different from that of the coronaviruses.
  • According to the WHO, it is a viral zoonosis — a virus transmitted to humans from animals.
  • Its symptoms are similar, but less severe to smallpox.
  • It is also an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus, unlike the RNA virus, that makes it far more stable and less prone to rapid mutations.
  • There are two distinct genetic clades of the monkeypox virus:
    • the central African (Congo Basin) clade
    • the West African clade
  • The Congo Basin clade has historically caused more severe disease and was thought to be more transmissible.

Vaccines for Monkeypox:

  • There is yet no dedicated monkeypox vaccine.
  • However, vaccinations against smallpox were found to be 85% effective in preventing smallpox, a disease eradicated in 1980.
  • In 2019, the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), approved the JYNNEOS vaccine for the prevention of smallpox, monkeypox and other diseases caused by orthopoxviruses, including vaccinia virus.

How does JYNNEOS work?

  • JYNNEOS contains a live vaccinia virus that does not replicate efficiently in human cells.
  • The vaccinia virus is the smallpox virus but made incapable of replicating within the body.
  • The evidence for JYNNEOS’ effectiveness against monkeypox rests on 22 clinical trials that tested the vaccine’s safety.
  • The effectiveness of the JYNNEOS is estimated based on comparison to another licensed, smallpox vaccine called ACAM2000.
  • There is no data yet on JYNNEOS’ effectiveness.

What about India?

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology Pune have isolated the virus strain from samples of people confirmed with the infection in India.
  • The genomic sequence of the Indian strain has a 99.85% match with the West African strain circulating globally.
  • The ICMR has invited tenders from local companies to develop a vaccine.
  • The Serum Institute of India is in talks with international partners regarding a potential vaccine but it would take time.
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