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Can Monkeypox Be Prevented With the Smallpox Vaccine

Jan 05, 2023 By Madison Evans

Since monkeypox is spreading rapidly worldwide, people are no longer asking, "What is it?" but rather, "How can I prevent myself?" It has also been discovered that certain elderly persons in the United States may still have some protection against the virus because of a previous vaccination: the smallpox vaccine.

"vaccination against smallpox also protects against monkeypox." In the past, some people vaccinated against smallpox may be immune to the disease or at least have a less severe reaction to infection.

While the United States officially ended routine smallpox vaccination in 1972 after the disease was eradicated, the government still maintains a large stockpile of the vaccine out of concern for bioterrorism, with enough supplies to vaccinate all Americans who would need protection in the event of a future outbreak.

Vaccinating Children Against Monkeypox and Smallpox

People who had the smallpox vaccination before it was phased out in 1972 may still be partially protected from monkeypox and other orthopoxviruses, says Newman; just how much protection, though, is unclear.

Although previous childhood smallpox vaccination does increase immunity to some extent against monkeypox, a 2007 study published in the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology indicated that it did not confer full immunity.

Previous smallpox vaccination was associated with less severe symptoms of monkeypox in individuals who caught the disease, according to the study's authors. "Clearly protection does decrease." We need to determine how much or how effective it is against monkeypox.

Protective Vaccines Exist Against Smallpox and Monkeypox

The United States possesses two smallpox vaccines, ACAM2000 and Jynneos, that are either licensed for use against monkeypox or may be of use in this context. Neither of those was the vaccine used when protecting against smallpox became necessary in the 20th century.

However, ACAM2000 has replaced Dryvax, another virus-based vaccine approved by the FDA in 1931. The ACAM2000 vaccination does not include the variola virus. Still, it does include the live vaccinia virus, which is also a member of the poxvirus family and is closely related to the variola virus.

The vaccine is intended for those aged 18 and over at high risk of contracting orthopoxviruses; however, it can be administered to those exposed to monkeypox.

CDC Recommendations and Vaccine Effectiveness

The CDC reports that historical evidence from Africa indicates that the smallpox vaccination is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox. Meanwhile, the immunogenicity and efficacy of the Jynneos vaccine in animal studies provided conclusive evidence of the vaccine's efficacy against monkeypox.

While over 100 million doses of the ACAM2000 vaccine are readily available, just a little over a thousand doses of the Jynneos vaccine are now in the stockpile. However, this number is projected to rise.

The CDC adopted recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in a May 27 MMWR to make Jynneos accessible to persons at high risk of exposure and illness. This includes those who study monkeypox in labs and healthcare professionals who may be dealing with the present outbreak.

Methods That Are Not Specific to Monkeypox

There are steps you can take to protect yourself from monkeypox even in the absence of a widespread vaccination campaign, which is, again, highly improbable. The best way to prevent contracting the virus is to avoid animals, people, or anything that could be infected.

The virus spreads through contact with an infected host or objects contaminated with infected bodily fluids. As with many other infections, maintaining good personal cleanliness is crucial.

For example, following every possible interaction, one should wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and wear protective gear. Isolating yourself and seeing a doctor as soon as possible are good ideas if you suspect you may have been exposed to monkeypox through travel or close contact with an infected individual.

Can I Assume That I Am Immune To Monkeypox?

Can elderly people get monkeypox because they got the smallpox vaccine? New York's Joan Tosh from Port Chester In a short amount of time, monkeypox has evolved into a worldwide emergency. The United States government declared a public health emergency this past week, freeing up resources to combat the virus's rapid spread.

A public health emergency has been declared by the World Health Organization. However, most reported occurrences have been in males who engage in sexual activity exclusively with other males. Reader's question about who should look for monkeypox vaccinations was posted last week.

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