3 ways to know if you need a monkeypox vaccine, and how to get one, according to experts
- The monkeypox vaccine Jynneos is in short supply in the US.
- Monkeypox is not as infectious as COVID, and vaccination is only being recommended for certain groups of people right now.
Monkeypox vaccines are in short supply nationwide.
The US government says 1.1 million doses of the Jynneos vaccine — the only Food and Drug Administration-licensed vaccination that is approved for use against monkeypox in the US — have been "made available" throughout the country.
But it will take 3.2 million doses to vaccinate everyone designated "at risk" of monkeypox, and while the US has ordered more doses from the Danish manufacturer, it may not receive the shipment for months — possibly not until 2023.
That means it's even more pertinent that the shots we do have go in the arms who need it more, experts say.
"There's a finite amount of vaccine currently available, so we really want to strategize about deploying that vaccine in ways that is going to control the outbreak and not provide it to people who are just concerned that they may be exposed," Danielle Ompad, a professor of epidemiology at New York University, said.
How the monkeypox vaccine works, and how it feels
The two-dose Jynneos vaccine was developed to fight smallpox.
It's still slightly unclear exactly what kind of protection Jynneos's vaccine provides (as CDC director Rochelle Walensky put it in a Tuesday briefing: "We don't yet know how well these vaccines work.") However, officials are banking on a study from the 1980s suggests it is 85% effective at preventing monkeypox infection, too.
The two shots are administered around 28 days apart. Full protection from the regimen kicks in around two weeks after a second shot.
Dr. Graham Walker, an emergency physician in San Francisco, recently got his first dose of the two-shot Jynneos vaccine subcutaneously, and told Insider "it was totally no big deal" and "did not hurt at all."
The experience "just felt a little strange," and unlike any other vaccination he's gotten before, only "because it was all men" in the waiting room, he said.
Who really needs a vaccine
While some people living in areas where monkeypox is spreading fast, like New York or San Francisco, might be tempted to rush out and get a shot, the reality is there isn't enough vaccine to do that — and it's not necessary.
The goal right now is to tamp down the outbreak before it becomes so widespread that everyone needs to be vaccinated. This strategy — often referred to as "ring vaccination" — works by only vaccinating people who are most likely to become infected.
Currently, the US Department of Health and Human Services says the vaccine should be given to:
- Known contacts of people who have monkeypox, as identified by public health authorities;
- Presumed contacts, who know that a sexual partner they were in contact with in the past 14 days has monkeypox;
- People who've had multiple sex partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox.
The Jynneos vaccine is free for those who qualify.
According to Ompad, someone classifies as a candidate for monkeypox vaccination if they have had sustained, close contact with someone known to have monkeypox. "You don't have to be having sex with somebody to get it," Ompad added. "It can also be transmitted by respiratory droplets, or contact with infected animals."
People who just had monkeypox don't need shots
If you've already had a monkeypox infection during the current outbreak, you likely have some form of protection against reinfection, experts say.
"In general, we expect most people to not be susceptible to reinfection in the near term," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said during a briefing on Wednesday, citing data from prior smallpox and monkeypox outbreaks.
How to get a monkeypox vaccine, if you actually need one
If you qualify for a vaccine, many state and city health departments have phone numbers listed online to book an appointment. It may take several attempts.
New York City has an online appointment booker. San Francisco lists both walk-in and by-appointment vaccination sites online. Massachusetts lists several phone numbers of clinics around the state to try.
If you can't find a clinic or vaccine site near you, try contacting a local STD clinic, or calling your doctor to see if they may know of a spot where vaccine appointments are available nearby.
Expect smaller shots
Walker, the ER doctor mentioned earlier, said the one notable aspect of his experience getting the Jynneos shot was that "it felt like it was a fairly big volume — they injected it maybe over five seconds or so."
The experience may be different for people getting the shot in the coming weeks, after a US government announcement on Tuesday.
Given the short supply of the vaccine, the US plans to try dose-sparing monkeypox vaccines. Instead of injecting a full dose into the fatty tissue layer of the arm, practitioners are being told to inject a fifth of the dose just under the surface of the skin.
This strategy could allow up to five people to share a single dose of Jynneos vaccine.
The intradermal method is "immunologically equivalent and safe," to the subcutaneous method, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House's National Monkeypox Response, said during a briefing on Tuesday.
Still, he said "I think we're going to see that we will likely still run out of vaccines before we run out of arms."
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