The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offered monkeypox vaccines to sexually active gay and bisexual men on Thursday.
All men over age 18 who have had sex with men and had multiple or anonymous partners in the last 14 days are eligible to get the shots, the department said. The vaccine Jynneos is FDA approved for monkeypox and smallpox.
The city's health department said that men who have sex with men they met through dating apps or social media platforms or at clubs, raves, saunas, or other large gatherings may be at higher risk of having been exposed to the current outbreak of monkeypox. The move followed the example of the U.K. Health Security Agency and Canada's Public Health Agency. The monkeypox vaccine could be used for men at higher risk of exposure, according to the U.K. That could be someone who, for example, has multiple partners, participates in group sex or attends'sex on premises' venues, according to the guidance. 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 vaccines were administered only to people with known exposure to the virus, which was an expansion of monkeypox vaccine efforts.
As of Thursday afternoon, New York City's Department of Health had confirmed 30 cases of orthopoxvirus, which is believed to be monkeypox. That data appears to be ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tally, which totaled 22 cases in New York state. The department issued a follow-up statement asking residents to check back on Sunday for additional slots after New York filled their vaccination appointments. The city will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend.
The CDC has confirmed more than 155 monkeypox cases in the U.S. California had the most cases of 40 cases as of Wednesday. On Thursday, health authorities in Toronto issued an updated advisory suggesting that gay and bisexual men take special care in the face of the monkeypox threat.
The agency said anyone can get Monkeypox. During this outbreak, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men have been affected in a number of countries. Canada had recorded 210 monkeypox cases as of Wednesday. The U.K. total was close to 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 extending the vaccine offer to those at higher risk, we hope to break chains of transmission and help contain the outbreak, said Mary Ramsay, UKHSA's vaccine chief.
Four CDC doctors cautioned health officials to balance their messages about monkeypox earlier this week, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
They wrote that focussing only on one population when an infection is emerging can propagate stigma and prematurely narrow the appropriate public health response. Narrow focus threatens the health of other communities that might have a higher risk for being affected. More than 3,300 monkeypox cases have been reported in 41 countries since the start of May, according to the CDC. Until recently, monkeypox infections were rarely found outside of 11 African countries where the disease is endemic.