Is There a Monkeypox Vaccine… And Can You Get It?

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Monkeypox is a disease where you get a fever, body aches, and a painful rash with blisters that last for two to four weeks. While this condition originally came from certain parts of Africa, it has been spreading around the world. You may have heard about this outbreak in the news and wondered whether there is a monkeypox vaccine you can get to protect yourself. If you want to know about monkeypox vaccination options in the U.S. and see if it’s right for you, read below to learn more.

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus that leads to a rash and painful bumps on the skin. The rash has small flat spots that become blisters filled with pus. These blisters form scabs, and these scabs fall off after two to four weeks. It is also usually associated with fever, headaches, body aches, and fatigue.

It spreads from person to person through close contact. You can get monkeypox from another person if you:

  • Have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with an infected person
  • Hug, kiss, or massage someone with the infection
  • Are exposed to an infected person’s respiratory droplets for a long period of time
  • Touch objects (like bedding, clothes, and towels) that have been used by an infected person

Although most cases of monkeypox are associated with sex, the condition is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Scientists are unsure if sex itself or the close contact involved with sex causes monkeypox to be transmitted from one person to another. You can also get monkeypox from an animal if you:

  • Cook or eat the meat of an animal infected with monkeypox
  • Get scratched or bitten by an infected animal

You can learn more about the history, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of monkeypox here.

Monkeypox Prevention in the U.S.

The CDC does not currently recommend that the general public get monkeypox vaccine. Instead, the CDC encourages vaccination for people with the highest risk of getting monkeypox. If you are at high risk, you may receive the monkeypox vaccine before or after exposure to the virus. You may be at high risk of getting monkeypox if you:

  • Had close contact with someone who was infected with monkeypox
  • Have a sexual partner who was recently infected with monkeypox
  • Engage in higher risk sexual activities
  • Are a health care worker who cares for patients with monkeypox
  • Are a lab worker who performs diagnostic testing with the monkeypox virus

If you’ve been exposed to monkeypox, you should get the monkeypox vaccine within four days of exposure to avoid symptoms.

Vaccination does not immediately protect you against monkeypox. In reality, it takes several weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective. Even if get the monkeypox vaccine, you should continue taking precautions against getting monkeypox. These precautions include avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox.

Monkeypox Vaccine Options

There are two vaccines that people in the U.S. can receive for the prevention of monkeypox: the JYNNEOS vaccine and the ACAM2000 vaccine.

JYNNEOS Vaccine

The JYNNEOS vaccine is a live virus vaccine, so it is made from a weakened version of the virus. To make the vaccine, scientists take a sample of the virus, change it so that it can’t cause severe illness in people with healthy immune systems, and put the weakened virus into the vaccine. The JYNNEOS vaccine is given in two doses, four weeks apart. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to the previous dose of JYNNEOS, you should speak to your doctor about what to do next for vaccination.

This vaccine is given to adults by injection under the skin. It will look similar to a tuberculosis test, where it causes a small bump under the skin when it’s injected. For kids, it can be given in the arm or thigh like other vaccines. The most common side effect of this vaccine is redness or irritation at the injection site.

ACAM2000 Vaccine

The ACAM2000 vaccine is also a live virus vaccine that is weakened, so it can’t cause infection after being injected. This vaccine causes more side effects, such as redness and itching than the JYNNEOS vaccine. Furthermore, you shouldn’t receive the ACAM2000 vaccine if you:

  • Had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of ACAM2000
  • Have three or more risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking
  • Have a weak immune system, such as those who have HIV or people who are taking medications that decrease the immune system’s ability to function
  • Have eczema or other skin conditions that cause your skin to flake off
  • Currently have a moderate or severe illness
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are younger than one year old

When you receive the ACAM2000 vaccine, a healthcare worker will give you the vaccine by pricking the skin of your upper arm multiple times until a small bump forms on your skin. Over a few weeks, a blister develops at the vaccination site. This blister develops a scab that falls off, leaving a small scar behind. This is the normal course, and you may be familiar with this if you’ve received the smallpox vaccine. You have to take special care of this wound, such as with bandage changes every three days and disposing of the scab in a sealed bag.

How To Get The Monkeypox Vaccine

The U.S. has a short supply of monkeypox vaccines, and, as a result, many people who want a vaccine have been unable to get one. However, the U.S. government has ordered more monkeypox vaccines so that it will have about seven million doses by mid-2023, making the vaccine more available to those eligible to get it. If you think you may be at high risk for getting monkeypox, you should speak with your doctor to see if you’re eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine. You can also call your state’s health department to find a nearby clinic that can give you the vaccine. Check out the CDC’s list of accredited state, tribal, military, and local health departments here to contact them.

Resource Links:

  1. “2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map” via CDC
  2. “ACAM2000 (Smallpox Vaccine) Questions and Answers” via FDA
  3. “Accredited Health Departments” via CDC
  4. “HHS orders additional vaccine, increases testing capacity to respond to monkeypox outbreak” via HHS
  5. “How It Spreads” via CDC
  6. “Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 Vaccines during the 2022 U.S. Monkeypox Outbreak” via CDC
  7. “Monkeypox: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention” via SymptomFind
  8. “Monkeypox vaccine: WHO urges countries to share data on effectiveness” via UN News
  9. “Understanding How Vaccines Work” via CDC
  10. “Vaccines” via CDC
  11. “Why It’s So Hard to Get a Monkeypox Vaccine Right Now” via Time