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Monkeypox Virus: What It Is and How to Schedule a Vaccine

As monkeypox cases in New York City continue to rise, New Yorkers have inquired about this type of orthopoxvirus and how to get the vaccine. Here is what you need to know.

In short: 

  • New York recently declared a state of emergency in response to the Monkeypox outbreak, although cases are currently declining.
  • Monkeypox infections are rarely fatal and most people infected recover on their own– though the process can be painful.
  • Transmission can happen during intimate activities, and also direct contact with a rash of someone who has the virus.
  • The current vaccine for the monkeypox is the JYNNEOS ™ and it is becoming available in waves for individuals at the highest risk of exposure. Check if eligible.  
  • Text MONKEYPOX to 692692 or MONKEYPOXESP for alerts in Spanish to know when appointments are available.
  • When available, appointments can be schedule here: https://docu.nyc/Mpox (page will say “under maintenance” when no appointments are available)
  • The vaccine is available to every New Yorker regardless of immigration status. The information collected is confidential and will not be shared.

For the most up-to-date information, visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s website. 

What is the Monkeypox virus outbreak?

Although the names are similar, the monkeypox virus is not related to chicken pox. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus is part of the same family of viruses as the variola virus, which causes smallpox. The symptoms are similar, but monkeypox infections are milder and are rarely fatal. People who are infected usually recover on their own. 

Since the first confirmed case in May of 2022, more than 1,053 cases have been confirmed in the United States though the figure could be higher. New York City saw 336 people test positive by July 13th. Cases are on the rise. 

Those infected by the monkeypox may see new rashes around their intimate parts, or bumps that look like blisters, or open sores. The rashes can be painful and last between two to four weeks. 

How does the monkeypox virus spread?

The monkeypox virus is most often spread through direct contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus, according to the New York City Department of Health (DOH). However, anyone can get it through contact with clothing, bedding and other items used by a person with monkeypox.  

Transmission can happen during sex or other intimate activities, including:

  • Oral, anal and vaginal sex
  • Hugging, kissing, cuddling and massage
  • Coming in contact with bedding or other items that have the virus on them during or after intimate activity.

“We’re asking New Yorkers to assess their own level of risk and exposure based on their behavior. Anyone can get and spread monkeypox, but the current cases are primarily spreading among social networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men,” a DOH press representative told Documented. “But if someone has a new or unexpected rash or sores, they should contact a healthcare provider.”

How to get the monkeypox vaccine

The current vaccine available to New Yorkers is the JYNNEOS ™, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of the monkeypox virus. It is available for individuals who meet the below criteria, regardless of immigration status. The information collected is confidential and will not be shared with immigration enforcement agencies.

Getting the vaccine after an exposure can reduce the chance of getting the monkeypox virus, and, for those already infected, can help reduce the symptoms. There are two doses that will have to be taken at least four weeks apart. 

As of October 6th, the following groups are now eligible to receive the JYNNEOSTM vaccine:

  • People of any sexual orientation or gender identity who have or may have multiple (more than 1) or anonymous sex partners, or participate or may participate in group sex
  • People of any sexual orientation or gender identity whose sex partners are eligible per the criteria above
  • People who know or suspect they have been exposed to monkeypox in the last 14 days
  • Anyone who considers themselves to be at risk for monkeypox through sex or other intimate contact

Due to higher risk status, it is strongly recommended that the following groups receive the vaccine:

  • Men whose sex partners are men (cisgender or transgender), transgender women, or gender nonconforming or nonbinary individuals; especially those who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past 6 months
  • Transgender, gender nonconforming, or gender nonbinary individuals, especially those who have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months
  • Cisgender women whose sex partners are men who have sex with men or who are transgender, gender nonconforming, or gender nonbinary
  • People who participate or may participate in sex parties or other events where there is minimal clothing and direct, frequent, or prolonged skin-to-skin contact
  • People who anticipate having sex at a commercial sex venue or sex in association with a large public event
  • People who are taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • People who are living with HIV
  • Sex workers, erotic workers, and anyone engaging in survival sex or any other types of transactional sex (including sex in exchange for money, food, shelter or other goods) of any sexual orientation or gender identity

You can make an appointment for your first and second dose here. Some locations also offer walk-in appointments for both first and second doses. 

To receive alerts about monkeypox in NYC, including appointment releases, by texting MONKEYPOX to 692692 or MONKEYPOXESP for alerts in Spanish.


Also read: LGBT in NYC, Where to Get Healthcare, Name Change Services and More

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