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As mpox cases rise, experts urge complete, 2-part vaccinations

Nada Hassanein, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

The number of U.S. mpox cases has more than doubled compared with last year, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been urging clinicians across states to encourage vaccinations for those at risk.

As of May 25, the nation had seen a roughly 150% increase in cases of the disease formerly known as monkeypox — from 434 at that time last year to 1,089 this year, according to the CDC. About a third of the cases are in New York state, New York City (which the CDC reports separately), New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Anyone can contract mpox, a viral disease that can cause a rash, pain severe enough to require hospitalization and — in rare cases, primarily in patients with other complications — death. But during 2022’s U.S. outbreak, the contagious infection mainly affected men in gay and bisexual communities. While it’s not a sexually transmitted infection, mpox can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets or contact with bodily fluids.

June is Pride Month, and public health experts are concerned about a potentially higher caseload this summer as people gather for large celebrations. Experts are encouraging vaccination outreach, especially to Black and Hispanic LGBTQ+ people, who are less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to face barriers to getting care.

Those who are at highest risk for mpox, including men who have sex with men and people with advanced HIV, should receive two doses, four weeks apart, of the trademarked Jynneos vaccine to prevent infection.

The CDC has warned that low vaccination rates among those groups with the highest risk of mpox exposure could lead to a resurgence of the disease.

 

Dr. Richard Silvera, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said the current mpox rates are far lower than they were in 2022, when there were more than 3,800 cases citywide, but that the numbers are growing rapidly.

“I am very concerned that there will be increased rates over the summer, particularly as we hit Pride Month,” Silvera said.

New York City has seen more than 200 cases this year — up from 46 at this time last year. It’s unclear what is causing the surge, but Silvera and other experts say one factor could be that some patients may not have received their second doses.

“Either their immunity is waning, or folks didn’t get complete vaccination,” he said. “And so now there’s been time for that virus to exploit those gaps in protection.”

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