U.S. to Make Vaccines Available for Healthcare Workers Exposed to Monkeypox

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the smallpox vaccine is also effective against monkeypox, even when administered after a person is diagnosed

Monkeypox. Photo: Getty

With monkeypox now in the U.S., health officials will start vaccinating those directly infected with or exposed to the rare virus.

Dr. Raj Panjabi, who is leading the White House's monkeypox response, announced on Monday that health care workers who have treated individuals infected with monkeypox will be able to get vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine, which is also effective against monkeypox.

"I'm happy to report, even with the first case in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital, our colleagues across the government have been able to get vaccines to that hospital," he told CNN's Laura Coates. "And just yesterday they've already started offering the vaccines to health care workers who have been exposed."

"The first part is to identify those who are infected and to isolate them and make sure that they get the care they need," Panjabi added. "The second part is to ensure we vaccinate those who've been exposed to the infected individuals. If we do that again and again — and that's our approach at the White House and across the government — then we have a better chance of ending this outbreak."

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monkey pox
Monkeypox lesions. Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Jynneos smallpox vaccine is also effective against monkeypox, even when administered after a person is diagnosed.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden assured Americans that monkeypox does not rise to the same "level" of concern as COVID-19.

Speaking in Tokyo on Monday after a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Biden said that he doesn't believe the U.S. will need to quarantine for monkeypox, and the nation has a supply of vaccines to fight the virus, the Washington Post reported.

"I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it," Biden said, when asked if the U.S. would quarantine like Belgium, which has required anyone infected to isolate for 21 days after they confirmed three cases of monkeypox in the country.

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Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC's deputy director added in a press briefing later that day that while monkeypox can be transmitted through respiratory droplets, "this isn't COVID," and it is not as contagious. The symptoms are also more intense: "this is very different than a sore throat, cough, upper respiratory virus," she said. "This is more flu-like."

She also emphasized that the U.S. has a stockpile of "100 million" smallpox vaccine doses if there is a need to use them.

The U.S. currently has one confirmed case of monkeypox in a man in Massachusetts who had recently traveled from Canada, and four confirmed cases of orthopoxvirus — which is the umbrella term for the family of viruses that includes monkeypox and smallpox — in New York City, Florida and Utah. All are men, and all have recently traveled internationally.

Worldwide, there are 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases across 12 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The largest clusters are in Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, which has reported 56 cases so far.

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