The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Thursday became the latest agency to begin offering monkeypox vaccines to sexually active gay and bisexual men.
All men over 18 who have sex with men and have had multiple or unnamed partners in the past 14 days are eligible for the vaccine, the department said. The proposed two-dose vaccine, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for monkeypox and smallpox.
“Anyone can get and spread monkeypox, but most cases in the current outbreak are in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men,” the Department of Health said. City Health in a statement, adding that “men who have sex or other intimate contact with men they have met through dating apps or social media platforms, or in clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas, or other large gatherings may be at higher risk for recent exposure.
This decision followed the lead of the UK Health Safety Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The UK announced on Tuesday that doctors may consider monkeypox vaccines for men at higher risk of exposure. According to the guidelines, this could be “someone who, for example, has multiple partners, participates in group sex, or frequents ‘sex on location’ venues.”
In Canada, vaccination clinics have offered monkeypox vaccines to gay, bisexual and other men who have had sex with men in the past two weeks in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
The trend marks an expansion of monkeypox vaccination efforts; previously, vaccines were only given to people with known exposure to the virus.
By Thursday afternoon, the New York Department of Health had confirmed 30 cases of orthopoxvirus“which is presumed to be monkey pox.”
That data appears to be ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tally, which totaled 22 cases in New York state. New York vaccination appointments filled up quickly, prompting the department to issue a tracking statement asking residents to return on Sunday for additional slots. The city will hold its annual Pride celebration and parade this weekend.
Across the United States, the CDC has confirmed more than 155 cases of monkeypox. California had the most with 40 cases on Wednesday. llinois had 19 and Florida had 16.
On Thursday, Toronto health officials released an updated advisory suggesting that gay and bisexual men take special care amid the threat of monkeypox.
“Anyone can catch Monkeypox,” the agency said. “However, during this epidemic, in a number of countries, gay men, bisexuals and men who have sex with men have been affected.”
Canada had recorded a total of 210 monkeypox cases as of Wednesday. The UK total, meanwhile, approached 800 on Monday.
Monkeypox is not currently considered a sexually transmitted infection, but WHO officials are investigating reports that the virus has been found in the semen of patients. The virus is known to be spread through contact with an infected person’s lesions or rashes, as well as through respiratory droplets and contaminated items like clothing or bedding.
“By expanding the supply of vaccines to those most at risk, we hope to break the chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak,” UKHSA vaccines manager Dr Mary Ramsay said on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, four CDC doctors, writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, warned health officials to strike a balance in their messages about monkeypox.
“Focusing exclusively on one population when an infection emerges can spread stigma and prematurely reduce the appropriate public health response,” they wrote. “A narrow focus threatens the health of other communities that may also be at higher risk of being affected.”
More than 3,300 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide in 41 countries since the start of May, according to the CDC. Previously, monkeypox infections were rarely found outside of the 11 African countries where the virus is endemic.