Alaskapox virus renamed as borealpox virus

News brief

The Alaska Department of Health (ADH) announced that it has been consulting with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to change the name of the Alaskapox virus to “borealpox virus,” with the renaming taking effect with the start of April.

pox lesion
Rahman Ali / iStock

ADH said the name references the ecosystem where the virus was found in humans and small animal reservoirs. Also, it said the name is less specific and offers more leeway for the possibility of the virus being identified in animals and humans outside of Alaska.

Virus naming has shifted away from specific locations

Virus naming has sometimes been a hot button issue, and over the past several years, naming has shifted away from nomenclature that includes specific geographic locations or populations.

Earlier this year, the state reported the seventh known case of borealpox—a man from the Kenai Peninsula. His infection marked the first fatality from the novel orthopox virus. The case was notable, partly because it was the first to occur outside of the Fairbanks area, suggesting that the virus may be more widespread in the state's small mammals than previously known.

Bavarian Nordic announces commercial launch of mpox vaccine

News brief

Bavarian Nordic today announced the commercial launch of its vaccine against mpox and smallpox, which means the vaccine will now be available outside of designated clinics that were tapped to administer doses from the US government's vaccine supply.

vaccine bandaid

US mpox activity on the rise

The development comes as US mpox cases are outpacing activity reported last year at this time. So far 576 cases have been reported this year as of the week ending March 23, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year at this time, 298 cases were reported.

The commercial launch of the product, called Jynneos, will allow patients to get the vaccine at more locations, including clinics and pharmacies. Last October, federal health officials recommended the vaccine for routine use adults at risk for mpox infection.

Considerations for uninsured and underinsured

In webpage updates yesterday ahead of the commercial vaccine rollout, the CDC said it is working with Bavarian Nordic to ensure that people will continue to have broad access to the vaccine, including those who are underinsured and uninsured.

Bavarian Nordic said in a press release today that though mpox is no longer a public health emergency, the United States still averages about 200 cases a month, with transmission still occurring across most states. It said CDC data suggests that of 2 million people eligible to receive Jynneos, 60% remain unvaccinated.

Paul Chapin, the company's president and chief executive officer, said, "We look forward to working with healthcare providers across the nation to increase awareness and availability of the mpox vaccine."

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