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Here's Who Should Get the Monkeypox Vaccine Now and Why

This is what virus experts are advising.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

As of July 1, the US has 460 reported cases of monkeypox—a number virus experts say will inevitably rise. "Because of our experience with smallpox, we have literally had vaccine strategies for this genus of virus for centuries," says infectious disease physician and public health researcher Dharushana Muthulingam, MD, MS. "The current smallpox vaccines have at least 85% efficacy against monkeypox; New York City and the U.K. have been offering vaccines for those with higher risk of exposure. Currently, most people do not need medical treatment. Multiple promising antiviral medications are currently under study for individuals who may develop more severe disease." Here's who should get vaccinated for monkeypox, ASAP. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Vaccines Are Available For Monkeypox?

Doctor holding syringe, medical injection in hand with glove.

There are two vaccines available for monkeypox: ACAM2000 and Jynneos. "ACAM2000… is the second generation of our old smallpox vaccine," says epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina. "A much newer vaccine, called Jynneos, is also available for adults aged 18+. Jynneos is safe and effective. If you're eligible, go get a vaccine. Vaccines will help control this epidemic, but we need to do the groundwork: educate, answer questions, reduce stigma, and improve access. We absolutely need to take this virus seriously so it doesn't become endemic in more places around the world."


How Is Monkeypox Spread?

couple in live holding hads while lying in bed together

Monkeypox is spread through intimate physical contact, virus experts warn. "Monkeypox spreads through close contact—living with someone, intimate contact like sexual activity," says Saad Omer, PhD, director of Yale Institute for Global Health and professor of medicine (infectious diseases). "When people have sexual contact, they have to be in proximity to each other. So it's not necessarily sexually transmitted, but that's one kind of intimate contact. If you are living with someone, sharing a room or bed with someone, that's the kind of stuff we are concerned about when it comes to transmission."


Who Should Get Vaccinated?

Cheerful practitioner holding syringe and smiling

"The American public is currently at low risk for monkeypox," says Celine R. Gounder, MD. "It is spreading among men who have sex with men, but it is only a matter of time before it spreads to others. As of June 27, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control had reported 10 cases among women. Monkeypox is generally a mild disease but can be serious or even deadly for people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, a fetus or newborn, women who are breastfeeding, young children, and people with severe skin diseases such as eczema. But monkeypox could become endemic in the U.S. and around the world if it continues to spread unchecked."


How Can I Prevent Getting Monkeypox?

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Virus experts are advising prevention over cure when it comes to monkeypox. "The best way is to educate yourself and your sex partners about monkeypox," says Dr. Gounder. "If you're worried you might have monkeypox, get tested at a sexual health clinic. Many emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and other health care facilities may not be up to date on monkeypox. The CDC link to find the nearest sexual health clinic is Abstain from sex if you or your partner has monkeypox. And remember that condoms and dental dams can reduce but not eliminate the risk of transmission. The CDC also warns about the risk of going to raves or other parties where lots of people are wearing little clothing and of saunas and sex clubs. It has other suggestions like washing sex toys and bedding."


Don't Underestimate the Virus, Doctors Say


"I worry that people think this outbreak will just kind of eventually diminish itself and be extinguished," says Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I think the HIV lesson taught us no, there is enough individuals who, as men having sex with men will have anonymous partners, high-risk partners, et cetera, and therefore they will sustain this sexual transmission of this virus."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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