What we know about the Monkeypox vaccine

What is happening

Vaccines are offered to those most at risk of contracting the disease, but vaccine doses are in limited supply.

why is it important

Vaccination could be an important step to help curb the spread of monkeypox, which shows no signs of stopping.

What this means for you

Most people don’t need the monkeypox vaccine right now. But if you’ve been in contact with someone with monkeypox or are in a community with higher spread, you might be eligible.

Cases of monkeypox are increasing in the United States, and with no signs of stopping. About 2,900 cases have been confirmed in the United States and Puerto Rico. The US Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it has delivered more than 191,000 doses of the vaccine to state and city health departments.

But access to the vaccine has been difficult for many people, with limited availability of appointments and demand outstripping vaccine supply. (Other appointments for the monkeypox vaccine opened Friday in New York, the epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak.)

Testing for monkeypox has also lagged (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the number of tests the US can perform for monkeypox has increased recently from 6,000 samples per week to 70,000.) Many cases of the disease have been detected in sexual health clinics, possibly because monkeypox lesions can resemble those of sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes . But the majority of those affected by the current outbreak are gay and bisexual men – communities that tend to be proactive about sexual health, according to the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, the Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge.

Even with the tests and vaccine resources currently available, some experts fear the horse has already left the stable.

“We’re sort of catching up,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Here’s everything we know about monkeypox vaccination in the United States. Learn more about everything we know about monkeypoxincluding symptoms and their spread.

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Monkeypox explained: what you need to know


What is the monkeypox vaccine?

The United States has two vaccines that work against monkeypox in their national stockpile. Both are expected to work before exposure to monkeypox, as well as after exposure before symptoms begin. (The fact that vaccines work after exposure distinguishes monkeypox from diseases like COVID-19.)

Jynneos (manufactured by Bavarian Nordic) is a next-generation vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for monkeypox and smallpox. It is a two-dose vaccine, with each injection given four weeks apart. It uses a weakened virus and is approved for adults 18 and older who are at high risk of contracting monkeypox or smallpox.

Jynneos is the vaccine that is being shipped and currently being used in the US response to monkeypox. Its supply is limited, but the CDC says there may be more in the coming weeks and months.

Jynneos is the newest monkeypox vaccine, but it’s not the only one in US stock.

ACAM2000 is a second-generation smallpox vaccine that also works against monkeypox. (The two diseases are closely related and both caused by orthopoxviruses, which makes this possible.) If needed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it is also ready to ship the ACAM2000 vaccine, which is more abundant than Jynneos but still a second choice in the monkeypox answer because it has a side effect profile that is not safe for some people.

ACAM2000 is administered differently than the typical vaccine we are used to. It is administered by dipping a needle into a vaccine solution which is then ‘pricked’ several times into the upper arm. It will cause a localized infection (a “pox”), causing an immune response.

Although ACAM2000 does not cause smallpox, it does contain live vaccine virus, which is not suitable for everyone. It could be dangerous for immunocompromised people, pregnant women and people with certain heart or skin conditions.

Smallpox was declared eliminated from the world in 1980. The United States stopped routine vaccination against it in 1972, although some healthcare workers or people who work in laboratories may have had the vaccine. According to the CDC, ACAM2000 is a derivative of Dryvax, which helped eradicate smallpox.

A smallpox vaccine scar

A smallpox vaccine scar. Jynneos, a next-generation monkeypox and smallpox vaccine, is not the same type of vaccine used to eradicate smallpox and it does not leave a scar. People born before the mid-1970s may have a scar.

Photo Alliance/Getty Images

Who needs a monkeypox vaccine?

Most people don’t need a monkeypox vaccine right now. This is not a widespread rollout, like the one most countries have launched for the COVID-19 vaccine. To begin with, monkeypox does not spread easily. You usually need to have prolonged intimate contact with someone – think of a family member, a sexual partner, or a dance partner at a club.

While anyone can catch or spread monkeypox, gay and bisexual men account for a disproportionate number of cases in the current outbreak. Ahead of the nationwide response, New York began offering the vaccine to people who may be at higher risk of contracting it. Colorado also operates pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinics.

According to the CDC, you meet the criteria for a monkeypox vaccine if:

  • You are a contact of someone who has monkeypox or you have been identified as potentially exposed via contact tracing.
  • You have had a sexual partner within the past two weeks who has monkeypox.
  • You have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with a high number of monkeypox cases.

But ultimately, availability and eligibility depends on where you live and guidance from your state and local health department. Adalja says the response to the current monkeypox outbreak is not meant to be one-size-fits-all.

In New York, you must be an adult male who has sex with men and you must have had multiple sex partners in the past two weeks or have had anonymous sex in order to book an appointment. In Colorado, the same criteria apply.

If you are concerned about monkeypox or your risk of exposure, contact your doctor or local health clinic. Jynneos should also be prioritized for people who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill, the CDC says, including people with compromised immune systems.

How effective are vaccines?

Because the monkeypox epidemic in the United States is so new, there are no data on the exact effectiveness of the vaccines yet, according to the CDC. The effectiveness of Jynneos against monkeypox is supported by animal studies, according to the agency. And although not used in most cases, ACAM2000 is closely related to Dryvax, the vaccine that helped get rid of smallpox. The effectiveness of ACAM2000 is supported by animal studies as well as human clinical trials.

Although it’s not known how likely you are to get monkeypox after being vaccinated, you should still self-isolate if you develop symptoms of monkeypox, such as a rash, according to the CDC. For the vaccine to be most effective after exposure, the vaccine should be given four days after an exposure, according to the CDC. If given between four and 14 days after exposure, it may not prevent infection, but should reduce symptoms of the disease, according to the agency.

A computer image of a monkeypox virus

A computer image of a monkeypox virus.

Uma Shankar Sharma/Getty Images

Why does the United States have a stockpile of monkeypox vaccines?

The United States has a stockpile of Jynneos and ACAM2000 on hand not because the country feared an outbreak of monkeypox (which has been endemic in some African countries for years), but in case smallpox becomes a public threat again. . Smallpox was declared eliminated in the 1980s, and the last natural epidemic in the United States occurred in the 1949s. But smallpox is usually much more serious than monkeypox, and officials fear it could be used as biological warfare.

“The stockpile was created in the event of a biological weapons attack on the United States with smallpox,” Adalja said. In this case, health officials would not ration vaccines or only use the next-generation vaccine, Adalja said.

“If there was a smallpox attack, we would use all the vaccines we have to be able to deal with it,” he added.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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