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Biden Should Deliver Promised 20 Million Doses of Smallpox Vaccine to WHO to Fight Monkeypox

Public Citizen Tracks Commitments to Global Stockpile

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration should fulfill the U.S. pledge to share smallpox vaccines with the World Health Organization (WHO), Public Citizen said in a letter sent Monday to the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The letter reveals that in 2004, the U.S. committed 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine to the global stockpile managed by the WHO to be used “in the event of an emergency.”

Smallpox vaccines are considered to provide some protection against monkeypox, which is now detected in dozens of countries. Governments around the world, including the U.S., have responded to the outbreak by placing additional orders for vaccines. The WHO has said it would like to “revisit” the status of earlier smallpox pledges and see how it can access vaccines. The U.S. has a stockpile of more than 100 million smallpox vaccines.

“A U.S. decision to withhold the vaccines it pledged because a related-but-different disease was spreading would undermine its claim to be an ‘arsenal of vaccines,’” wrote Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, in the letter.

Public Citizen also identified additional government commitments to share smallpox vaccines with the WHO, including 5 million doses from France and 2 million doses from Germany.

Sharing vaccines with the WHO should be accompanied by a larger strategy to help the world combat monkeypox, including by sharing vaccine technology with manufacturers around the world, notes the letter. The WHO is developing a coordination mechanism for the “distribution of supplies based on public health needs and fairness.”

“Tests, treatments, and vaccines should be a global public good. Their use should be dictated by science, not scarcity,” wrote Maybarduk.