COVID booster? Check. Flu shot? Check. Monkeypox vaccine? Maybe. Recently eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine has expanded, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to add it to your annual lineup of shots.
In some cities, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the vaccine is available through the local health department, public health clinics and hospitals. Some places are even offering the vaccine at gay bars and other large social gatherings with at-risk populations.
“Overall the availability of the monkeypox vaccine, JYNNEOS, has increased, however, currently the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is not recommending routine immunization against monkeypox for the general public,” says Dr. Ami Patel, attending physician of infectious diseases at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “The vaccine efforts are focused on the specific populations being most impacted based on data from the current outbreak.”
Whereas the vaccine was previously prioritized for men who have sex with men, now anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity who is at risk for the monkeypox virus, also known as MPV, is able to get vaccinated. This includes people who have been identified as a close contact of someone with monkeypox; people who’ve recently learned one of their recent sex partners has been diagnosed with monkeypox; and if you’re a transgender or nonbinary person who has had mutlipe sex partners; sex at a commercial sex venue; or sex at an event or in an area where monkeypox is occurring, according to the CDC. People who have sexual partners that fit into the aforementioned scenarios as well as people who anticipate experiencing any of the above scenarios are advised to get vaccinated.
“Typically individuals who qualify for the vaccine are those who have had close contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox or someone at high risk for being exposed to monkeypox,” explains Patel. “Anyone who thinks they may fit this criteria should speak to their primary care physician who can help determine if they qualify and can advise on where to get the vaccine if they qualify.”
The JYNNEOS vaccine, which is free regardless of your ability to pay, requires two doses 28 days apart and is administered intradermally or in the muscle, for people 18 and older. While the JYNNEOS vaccine is not currently available to all children, Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA allows children under the age of 18 who’ve been exposed to MPV to receive the vaccine subcutaneously, or in the fat layer beneath the skin. If you’re prone to keloids, however, which is more common in darker people, the CDC recommends receiving a subcutaneous injection.
“The risk for children is still very low,” says Patel. “But if parents have concerns about exposure to monkeypox they should contact their pediatrician to determine if their child qualifies for testing or vaccination.”