Unlike the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines protecting against monkeypox have already been developed. But due to rising demand from the unexpected global outbreak, supply of the jabs remains limited.
Vaccination is currently available on a limited eligibility basis, accessible through local and state health departments predominantly to people with direct exposure to the virus.
Cases have been cropping up predominantly among men who have sex with other men, but WHO officials have cautioned that outbreaks commonly start in one group before spreading to others, and that monkeypox should not be expected to stay confined to a specific population.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 5,189 cases in the U.S. as of July 29 — nearly double the 2,891 reported the week prior — as well as 22,485 global cases.
Several U.S. monkeypox cases have been reported among children and women.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency last month, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may follow suit.
Here’s what you need to know about eligibility for the vaccine.
Who can get the monkeypox vaccine?
Due to limited vaccine supply, the CDC is limiting eligibility for available monkeypox jabs.
People who meet the requirements include those have been in close contact with confirmed infected persons, and people who have had multiple sexual partners in the last 2 weeks in an area reporting confirmed monkeypox cases.
Merely having multiple sexual partners is not enough to qualify for the vaccine under CDC recommendations. The virus — though it can be spread through intimate contact — is not considered sexually transmitted.
Some state and local health departments have expanded upon the eligibility recommendations set out by the CDC.
Where can I get a monkeypox vaccine or test?
People looking to get vaccinated should contact their local health care provider or health department to confirm eligibility or make an appointment.
The CDC doesn’t currently recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox like it does for vaccination against COVID-19.
People worried they may have the virus or have been exposed to it can also undergo monkeypox testing, which the Biden administration has ramped up in recent weeks.
Testing is available through HHS partnerships with private testing companies Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare.
A health care provider can help determine whether testing is necessary and, if so, will collect specimens to send to one of the labs for testing.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which comes from the same virus family that causes smallpox, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox cases were concentrated in central and western African countries before the recent global outbreak.
The current outbreak is of the West African monkeypox type, a serious but rarely fatal disease. The second of two types, the Congo Basin monkeypox type, has a 10 percent fatality rate, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox first appeared in humans in 1970, though the first recorded outbreak occurred earlier, in 1958, among a group of research monkeys, which gave the virus its name.
What are monkeypox symptoms?
The disease causes fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and respiratory issues, among other symptoms.
Perhaps the most notable symptom is a blister-like rash that spreads across the body and may cause permanent scarring, according to the CDC. Some people may only experience a rash during their illness.
Monkeypox symptoms typically appear within 3 weeks of exposure, and the illness itself lasts 2-4 weeks, or until the rash has fully healed.
Immuno-compromised people, pregnant people, children under 8 years old and people with a history of eczema are among those more prone to serious illness or death.
How does monkeypox spread?
Despite alerts that monkeypox can spread through sexual contact, the virus is not considered a sexually transmitted infection.
The virus can spread through respiratory secretions, exchanged during intimacy or face-to-face contact, as well as through direct contact with — or through contact with items that have touched — an infected person’s rash or bodily fluids.
Close contact during sex, kissing, hugging or talking closely can facilitate the spread of the virus.
The CDC reports that the source of the disease isn’t yet known, though non-human primates and African rodents may be able to transfer the virus to humans.
Only symptomatic cases can spread the virus, according to the CDC, but contagion lasts as long as the rash persists.
How well do vaccines protect against monkeypox?
Vaccines used against smallpox, which was eradicated, can be used to prevent monkeypox.
The Biden administration has been pulling two types of smallpox vaccines from the Strategic National Stockpile to get jabs to vulnerable groups and jurisdictions across the country.
As many as 340,000 doses of the FDA-approved Jynneos vaccine from Denmark have already been allocated in the U.S. The HHS announced plans last week to distribute an additional 786,000 Jynneos doses. The vaccine regimen requires two jabs four weeks apart.
According to the CDC, the U.S. has a larger supply of the vaccine ACAM2000, but the formula isn’t fit for the immuno-compromised or people otherwise more susceptible to the virus.
The vaccines are known to fight smallpox effectively, but because this outbreak is so new, there’s no data yet on whether the jabs will stave off this monkeypox wave.