Concerned about a possible increase in mpox (previously called monkey pox) cases, particularly among men who have sex with men, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging vulnerable populations to get fully vaccinated as part of their preparations for Pride and other summer activities.
The call comes after a sharp uptick in mpox cases in Chicago since mid-April. More than 20 cases have been diagnosed, according to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy director of the White House National Monkeypox Response, who spoke at a press briefing Thursday, May 18.
“If you didn't get your first dose, get it,” said Dr. Daskalakis. “And if you didn't get your second dose, get that. Seek healthcare and get tested if you have a rash, even if you've been previously vaccinated or had mpox in the past. We need to be ready to use all the tools in the prevention toolkit —that includes vaccines, testing and importantly, education—so that people can make informed decisions about their sex lives to halt the spread.”
Mpox causes rash and lesions, and is spread primarily through sex or other very close physical contact.
All the Chicago cases have been among men who have sex with men. While many of the men had received either partial or full vaccination with the modified Ankara-Bavarian Nordic vaccine, known as Jynneos, Dr. Daskalakis said that the vaccine had very likely resulted in minimizing the severity and length of illness. This includes people living with HIV; some of the men who were diagnosed with mpox were also on treatment for HIV. So far, no recent mpox cases have led to hospitalization.
Three studies newly published in The New England Journal of Medicine and the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report show that two doses of the Jynneos vaccine are 66% to 86% effective in preventing mpox among vulnerable people.
“Two doses of vaccine offer the best protection against mpox disease," said Leora R. Feldstein, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Mpox Emergency Response Team and co-author of one of the studies. “We really recommend staying up to date on vaccination going into the summer and into Pride season.”
The CDC has created an online vaccination locator; enter your ZIP code to find the nearest location offering free mpox vaccinations.