LONDON: The European Medicines Agency says it will begin reviewing data to decide if a smallpox vaccine made by the pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic might also be authorised for monkeypox, amid a growing outbreak of the disease across the continent.
In a statement on Tuesday, the EU drug regulator noted that the vaccine, known as Imvanex in Europe but sold as Jynneos in the US, is already cleared for use against monkeypox by American regulators.
In Europe, the vaccine is only authorised in adults for the prevention of smallpox, which is related to monkeypox.
"The decision to start this review is based on results from laboratory studies suggesting that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies that target the monkeypox virus," the EMA said.
The regulator said that supplies of the vaccine are currently very limited in Europe.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there are currently more than 4,300 cases of monkeypox globally, of which the majority are in Europe.
Several countries including Britain, Germany and the US have already begun vaccinating those at highest risk of catching monkeypox using smallpox vaccines.
Although the disease has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades, vaccines have not been used to stamp out previous outbreaks there. Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue.
People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
Most people infected with monkeypox recover within weeks without needing medical care but the disease can be more severe in vulnerable populations, like pregnant women and children.
The World Health Organisation declined last week to declare monkeypox a global emergency, but has said it is working on a vaccine-sharing mechanism that some fear could see vaccines go to rich countries like the UK that already have their own stockpiles.
According to the health analytics firm Airfinity, Britain has 4,500 doses of the Bavarian Nordic vaccine and has ordered another 20,000 shots.
The US has received more than 1 million doses already and has ordered another 13 million.