China Ready to Cash In with Monkeypox Test Kits and Vaccines

An engineer works in the general laboratory during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)
Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times on Monday boasted that Chinese companies are already prepared to cash in on monkeypox panic with nucleic acid test kits and vaccines.

“Several Chinese test kit makers reached by the Global Times on Monday said they have developed nucleic acid test kits for monkeypox, which can be quickly put into mass production and on the domestic market once approved by the government,” the Chinese Communist newspaper reported.

“Meanwhile, experts pointed out that there are no technological problems in developing a vaccine against monkeypox and a rapid special review by China’s drug administration could help the country develop the vaccine in roughly a year,” the Global Times added. 

China has not reported any monkeypox infections in the current outbreak, but Chinese social media is bubbling with conspiracy theories that the U.S. government weaponized the disease and is deliberately spreading it – theories built on the Chinese government’s irresponsible blame-shifting allegations that America developed Chinese coronavirus — which originated in China — in a military lab. 

Monkeypox is a variant of smallpox, and can generally be treated with existing smallpox vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday said it would release some smallpox vaccines from the national stockpile for treating monkeypox patients.

The CDC has over 100 million doses of an older smallpox vaccine that has some undesirable side effects, plus about 1,000 doses of a newer vaccine called Jynneos that was approved for use against monkeypox in 2019. The CDC expects to receive more doses of Jynneos in the coming weeks and has ordered a supply of an oral antiviral medicine called tecovirimat that has been approved for use against smallpox. 

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has about 31 million doses of smallpox vaccine in storage, but some of the doses are decades old.

The CDC added that while more cases than usual have been detected outside of Africa over the past few weeks, the monkeypox “outbreak” is tiny compared to Chinese coronavirus and has been traced to specific groups of people, so there is no apparent need to vaccinate the general population.

“Anyone can develop and spread monkeypox infection, but many of those affected in the current global outbreak identify as gay and bisexual men. We want to help people make the best-informed decisions to protect their health,” said CDC epidemiologist Dr. John Brooks.

The most recent CDC advisories cautioned that monkeypox rashes in the genital area can be confused with certain sexually-transmitted infections. Monkeypox is not itself a sexually-transmitted disease, but it spreads through close contact. Transmission between humans and pets may also be possible.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, currently attending W.H.O.’s annual World Health Assembly in Geneva, said on Monday that his country is considering isolation and vaccination strategies for monkeypox.

Lauterbach said men who have sex with unknown partners are considered a high-risk group for monkeypox transmission and should take steps to minimize their risk “without any stigmatization.”

“Vaccination of the general population is not being discussed here, we are only considering whether we might have to make vaccination recommendations for people who are particularly at risk,” he said.

The European Union’s health agency likewise rated the danger of monkeypox spreading through the general population as “very low.”

“However, the likelihood of further spread of the virus through close contact, for example during sexual activities among persons with multiple sexual partners, is considered to be high,” cautioned European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) director Andrea Ammon.


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