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Who Should Get the Monkeypox Vaccine Right Now?

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A nationwide monkeypox vaccination plan is finally in the works. On June 28, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an “enhanced nationwide vaccination strategy” to try to slow the spread of monkeypox. “The strategy will vaccinate and protect those at-risk of monkeypox, prioritize vaccines for areas with the highest numbers of cases, and provide guidance to state, territorial, tribal, and local health officials to aide in their planning response efforts,” a statement from HHS said.

The announcement comes as the current outbreak grows in the U.S. Since the first confirmed case was reported by the state of Massachusetts in mid-May, at least 349 other cases have been confirmed throughout the country, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); worldwide, there have been at least 5,115 confirmed cases in at least 51 countries at the time of publication.

HHS will provide 296,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine—the only FDA-approved vaccine designed to protect against monkeypox, in addition to smallpox, specifically—56,000 of which will be made available immediately, per the statement. More than 9,000 have already been dispensed, and 32 jurisdictions have requested vaccines. The remaining 240,000 doses will be available in the coming weeks, and HHS expects more than 1 million additional doses to be made available during the course of summer and fall 2022, per the statement.

The statement says a number of factors will determine how many vaccines a given jurisdiction is given, including reported monkeypox cases in the region as well as the number of high-risk individuals in the region. (California, Illinois, and New York currently have the most confirmed cases in the U.S., per the CDC.)

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So, who can (and should) get a monkeypox vaccine right now?

Right now, only certain individuals are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in the U.S. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is now recommending the Jynneos vaccine, which requires two doses given 28 days apart, for anyone who is high-risk following monkeypox exposure, per HHS. However, you can still get a vaccine after exposure–which means “close physical contact” with someone who either has a confirmed or presumed case of monkeypox—even if you’re not high-risk.

In addition to those who have been exposed to the virus, certain individuals can get the vaccine as a precaution. This group includes men who have sex with men who have “recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox” or “in an area where monkeypox is spreading,” per the HHS. The current outbreak has largely affected this specific community, per the CDC, but anyone can get monkeypox, regardless of sexual orientation. And since close sexual contact isn’t the only way to be exposed to monkeypox, it’s important for people to consider other potential touchpoints with the virus—like travel-related exposure, particularly in areas with high case counts—the CDC says. In a statement to health care providers, the CDC says: “Do not limit concerns to men who report having sex with other men. Those who have any sort of close personal contact with people with monkeypox could potentially also be at risk for the disease.”

What should you do if you think you’ve been exposed to monkeypox—and where can you get a vaccine?

Vaccination locations will differ depending on where you live. In larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, you may be able to get a vaccine at a mass vaccination site; in smaller towns, you may have to request a vaccine from a primary care provider or family medicine clinic, Thomas Russo, MD, an infectious disease expert at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, tells SELF. Make sure you alert your health care provider via phone or email if you have or suspect you have been exposed to monkeypox before you arrive at the appointment; that way, your provider can take precautions to try to keep patients and staff protected during your visit.

A health care professional can also help you with next steps if you suspect you’ve been exposed to monkeypox or potentially have monkeypox symptoms and don’t know what to do. If you have questions about whether you should get the Jynneos vaccine—or how the vaccine works or its benefits—reach out to a primary care doctor if you have one or your local health department; from there, speaking to an expert can help you make the best decision for your health.

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Source: Self

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