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 age 18 who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous partners in the last 14 days are eligible to get the shots, the department announced. The two-dose vaccine offered, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for both monkeypox and smallpox.
"Anyone can get and spread monkeypox, but most cases in the current outbreak are among gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men," the city's health department said in a statement, adding, "men who have sex or other intimate contact with men they met through dating apps or social media platforms, or at clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas, or other large gatherings may be at higher risk of having been recently exposed."
The move followed the example of the U.K.'s Health Security Agency and Canada's Public Health Agency. The U.K. announced Tuesday that doctors could consider monkeypox vaccines for men at higher risk of exposure. According to the guidance, that could be "someone who, for example, has multiple partners, participates in group sex or attends 'sex on premises' venues."
In Canada, vaccination clinics have offered monkeypox shots to gay, bisexual and other men who had sex with men over the last couple of weeks in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
The trend marks an expansion of monkeypox vaccination efforts; previously, the vaccines were administered only to people with known exposure to the virus.
As of Thursday afternoon, New York City's Department of Health had confirmed 30 cases of orthopoxvirus, "which is presumed to be monkeypox."
That data appears to be ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tally, which totaled to 22 cases in New York state. New York's vaccination appointments quickly filled, prompting the department to issue a follow-up statement asking residents to check back on Sunday for additional slots. The city will hold its annual Pride celebration and parade this weekend.
In the U.S. overall, the CDC has confirmed more than 155 monkeypox cases. California had the most at 40 cases as of Wednesday. llinois had 19, and Florida 16.
On Thursday, health authorities in Toronto issued an updated advisory suggesting that gay and bisexual men take particular care in the face of the monkeypox threat.
"Anyone can get Monkeypox," the agency said. "However, during this outbreak, in a number of countries, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men have been affected."
Canada had recorded a total of 210 monkeypox cases as of Wednesday. The U.K. total, meanwhile, was nearing 800 as of Monday.
Monkeypox is not currently considered a sexually transmitted infection, but WHO officials are looking into reports that the virus has been found in the semen of patients. The virus is known to spread through contact with an infected person’s lesions or rash, as well as via respiratory droplets and contaminated items like clothing or bedding.
"By expanding the vaccine offer to those at higher risk, we hope to break chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak," Dr. Mary Ramsay, the UKHSA’s vaccine chief, said on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, four CDC doctors, writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, cautioned health officials to strike a balance in their messaging about monkeypox.
"Focusing exclusively on one population when an infection is emerging can propagate stigma and prematurely narrow appropriate public health response," they wrote. "Narrow focus threatens the health of other communities that might also have a higher risk for being affected."
More than 3,300 monkeypox cases have been reported globally across 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.
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