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U.S. awards AmerisourceBergen $20M contract to expand monkeypox response

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced it has entered an agreement with AmerisourceBergen to expand the nation's distribution capabilities for monkeypox therapies, including vaccines. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a>/<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monkeypox_Virion_(colorized)_-_CDC.png" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>
The Biden administration on Tuesday announced it has entered an agreement with AmerisourceBergen to expand the nation's distribution capabilities for monkeypox therapies, including vaccines. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Wikimedia Commons

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has inked a nearly $20 million contract with a U.S. drug wholesale company to expand the distribution of vaccines and treatments to combat the monkeypox outbreak.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday it has entered a $19.8 million contract with AmerisourceBergen that it says will expand and quicken the distribution of monkeypox therapies.

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"Responding to the monkeypox outbreak requires close collaboration between the federal government, tribes and localities," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "With today's action, we ensure our local partners receive these critical tools more easily and quickly."

Under the deal and once it is fully implemented in the coming weeks, the distribution capability of the Strategic National Stockpile, which is part of the nation's federal medical response infrastructure, will be capable of handling up to 2,500 shipments per week of frozen Jynneos smallpox vaccine that is also used to fight the monkeypox virus.

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The contract will also facilitate up to 2,500 shipments of so-called ambient temperature TPOXX, which is a therapy that is also used to treat monkeypox.

The deal will expand the number of locations nationwide that can receive federal shipments and treatments, the department said, adding the Strategic National Stockpile is currently only shipping product to approximately five locations per jurisdiction.

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The announcement comes as the Biden administration has been criticized for its early handling of the monkeypox outbreak, in particular over its distribution of Jynneos vaccines due to a shortfall in supplies.

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The slow dispersal forced cities, such as Washington, D.C., to temporarily suspend administering the second dose of the two-dose vaccine regimen until supplies improve in order to ensure as many people as possible are inoculated against the virus.

Since then, the administration has taken several steps to increase supplies and hasten distribution of vaccines. As of Sept. 2, 772,753 vials of vaccine have been shipped nationwide, according to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We continue to do everything we can to make the vaccine and therapeutics needed to respond to monkeypox available to jurisdictions as quickly as possible," said Dawn O'Connell, the assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. "Today's announcement is the result of our real-time and ongoing conversations with states and jurisdictions aimed at improving the national response.

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"This new commercial contract will help deliver vaccines and treatments to communities and at-risk individuals more quickly and bring us a step closer to ending the current outbreak."

Since the first U.S. case was diagnosed in mid-May, the outbreak has grown to more than 20,700 infections, according to stats from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The United States declared the monkeypox outbreak a national health emergency on Aug. 4.

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