With a lot of information going around about mpox (formerly known as monkeypox), it can be hard to know who should be concerned about this disease and who should consider getting vaccinated. The bottom line is, if you’ve been exposed to mpox or are at a higher risk of getting infected, vaccination is recommended.
This article talks about which groups of people should be vaccinated, the effectiveness of the mpox vaccines, and other considerations — such as whether HIV treatments interact with the mpox vaccine. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s important to know other ways to protect yourself from mpox, as no vaccine provides 100 percent protection.
Although news about mpox can be scary, help is out there, and learning more about vaccines is one step you can take toward feeling more protected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends certain groups get the mpox vaccine, which is called Jynneos. You should get vaccinated if you are a close contact of someone who has mpox. Being a close contact generally means you have had skin-to-skin contact with this person, including intimate or sexual contact. For example, if you’ve had sex in the past two weeks with someone who’s been diagnosed with mpox, you should seek vaccination.
According to the CDC, you should also consider getting vaccinated if:
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated within four days of being exposed to prevent mpox — the sooner the better. Getting vaccinated four to 14 days after exposure may not prevent mpox but could still reduce symptoms.
Talk to a health care provider if you have questions about whether to get the mpox vaccine. Being open about your sexual behaviors can be intimidating, but it’s important to give an accurate description of your sexual activity so that you can receive the best vaccination advice unique to your situation.
In addition, talk to your doctor if you have a history of an allergic reaction to a previous dose of Jynneos, the antibiotics gentamicin or ciprofloxacin, or egg or chicken protein, as these may be indications that you should not get the vaccine.
The two approved vaccines available in the U.S. to prevent mpox are Jynneos and ACAM2000. Jynneos is the primary vaccine being used in the U.S. in response to this outbreak, and ACAM2000 provides an alternative. The Jynneos vaccine comes in two doses, and the ACAM2000 vaccine is a single dose.
The Jynneos vaccine was developed for both mpox and smallpox, while ACAM2000 was developed for smallpox. Why would you get a vaccine for smallpox to prevent mpox? The mpox virus is closely related to the smallpox virus. Therefore, the smallpox vaccine can protect you from getting mpox. According to the CDC, both vaccines are expected to provide good protection against mpox.
Because the current outbreak of mpox is unlike other outbreaks, it is difficult to know for sure how effective the available mpox vaccines are. The good news is that animal and clinical studies with humans showed that the Jynneos and ACAM20000 vaccines produced similar immune responses.
Data from Africa show that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 percent effective at preventing mpox. The CDC is working with partners to get additional data on Jynneos vaccine effectiveness. This information will help researchers better understand the risks and benefits of the vaccines in the current mpox outbreak as well as whether boosters will be needed. The CDC recommends getting the first and second doses of Jynneos to increase the level of protection.
Other ways to protect yourself against mpox, in addition to the vaccine, include:
Not everyone will experience side effects of either of the mpox vaccines. Some common side effects may be helpful to know about ahead of time, so you can be prepared.
The most common side effects after getting the Jynneos vaccine are:
People receiving the ACAM2000 vaccine have been shown to have side effects more frequently than those getting Jynneos. In fact, because of the risk of more severe side effects, the CDC recommends that people who are HIV-positive get vaccinated with Jynneos, not ACAM2000. Other people who should not get the ACAM2000 vaccine include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people with certain heart, skin, and eye conditions.
Common side effects of the ACAM2000 vaccine include:
It’s safe for most HIV treatments to be taken with the mpox vaccine. Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) remains effective with the mpox vaccine and should be taken as prescribed. However, if you have HIV, ask your doctor if the medications you are taking would interact with the mpox vaccine.
For people who live in large cities, mpox vaccines may be available at public health clinics, hospitals, or the health department. Contact your local health department or visit its website to see where you can find mpox vaccines. If you live in the U.S. or a U.S. territory, you can find your local health department website from the CDC. You can also use the mpox vaccine locator to search by zip code.
The vaccine is free, but some medical settings might charge an administration fee, which may be billed to insurance. You won’t be denied a vaccine if you can’t pay the administration fee.
Currently, the CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to mpox and people who may be more likely to get the disease, such as those with sex partners who have been diagnosed with mpox. At this time, vaccination is not recommended for people with a current mpox infection who have symptoms already or were infected previously during this outbreak.
For people who may be at higher risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), health officials — including those at the CDC — generally recommend waiting four weeks after an mpox vaccination before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Myocarditis is a rare side effect of COVID-19 vaccination but occurs most often in males ages 12 to 39.
If you’ve been exposed to mpox, you shouldn’t wait to seek vaccination for mpox. In fact, for people who received COVID-19 vaccination first, there is no recommended wait time before getting the mpox vaccine. You can even get the two vaccines at the same time.
According to the CDC, people who have not had the smallpox vaccine in the past three years should get vaccinated — that is, if they have been exposed or are at higher risk of being exposed.
No, the chickenpox vaccine does not protect against mpox. The virus that causes chickenpox is called varicella zoster, which is different from the viruses that cause mpox and smallpox. Getting the Jynneos or ACAM2000 vaccine is your best bet against mpox, as these vaccines are made to protect against the mpox and smallpox viruses, which are closely related.
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