GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The fight to keep monkeypox from growing as an epidemic will center right here in Grand Rapids.

Earlier this month, Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing announced it joined a European vaccine maker to bring their monkeypox vaccine to America., the federal government has announced funding for the effort.

The United State Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday the feds will chip in $11 million to fund efforts at Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing’s Grand Rapids fill facility.

“It’s a great step forward in the fight against monkeypox,” said Bob Fenton, the Health and Human Service’s monkeypox response coordinator.

Grand River Aseptic already has the space at their Grand Rapids facility. The federal funds will help them gear up for the effort.

Currently the vaccine is produced at Bavarian Nordic’s facility in Denmark and shipped to the U.S.

“The company that makes this overseas has a limited capability, so to bring it here to the United States to speed up the delivery, to actually have vials ready to put shots in arms is a big step forward,” Fenton said. “The $11 million will provide some of the equipment necessary to go ahead and prepare them and the supplies to be able to take the bulk vaccine and then put it in the vials to have to ready to ship to jurisdictions around the country.”

Bavarian Nordic created the formula for its JYNNEOS vaccine. It will send the recipe to Grand River Aseptic, which will mix and put the vaccine into vials, adding about 2.5 million vials to the supply.

“Right now, it immediately expands the capability and the speed at which we can get shots in arms,” Fenton said.

Grand River Aseptic’s expansion efforts over the last decade has put the company in a unique position to handle this kind of work. In 2020, they were awarded a contract to bottle Johnson & Johnson’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While there’s been criticism on the government’s handling of the monkeypox virus outbreak, including vaccine distribution, Fenton said adding Grand River Aseptic to the effort could help both now and in the future. 

“To have that relationship and that ability to expand manufacturing, speeds up the ability in the future that we can leverage again,” Fenton said.

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing hopes to begin shipping the vaccine by November.