Preliminary data indicates that unvaccinated people who are eligible for the vaccine are 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox than those who are vaccinated, according to U.S. health officials.
During a call with reporters on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said that preliminary data collected from 32 states between July and September is cause for optimism as the overall number of new monkeypox cases continues its sharp decline.
“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”
As The Washington Blade notes, Walensky admitted the data is incomplete. It is based on information about people who received only one shot of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine, and does not distinguish between those who were given a subcutaneous injection vs. an intradermal injection. It’s also unclear how much the overall reduction in infections is due to the vaccine vs. changes in behavior among those at risk.
“What we have right now is data on how well our vaccine is working after a single dose,” Walensky said. “What we don’t yet have is what happens after a second dose and how durable that protection is.”
White House monkeypox adviser Demetre Daskalakis stressed the need for at-risk individuals to get their second dose of the vaccine. “So, we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” he said.
Health officials also said they are expanding eligibility for the vaccine as pre-exposure prophylaxis. This new strategy, Daskalakis said, “encourages vaccine providers to minimize the risk assessments of people seeking the vaccine. Fear of disclosing sexuality and gender identity must not be a barrier to vaccination.”
Updated guidance will also allow patients to receive their injections in places other than their arms, which Daskalakis said would reduce the stigma associated with the visible, but temporary mark left at the injection site.
“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”