New York City broadens monkeypox vaccine eligibility

Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City’s vaccination sites, Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New York.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

New York City is expanding eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine and distributing 30,000 additional shots across the five boroughs, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced.

The two-dose Jynneos vaccine is now available for people of any sexual orientation or gender identity who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last two weeks. Others who are eligible include those whose partners have had multiple or anonymous partners in the last two weeks as well as individuals who know or believe they were exposed to monkeypox in recent days. The city also notes that the vaccine is available for anyone “who considers themselves” at risk of contracting monkeypox through sex or intimate contact.

The eligibility guidelines have gradually shifted as vaccine supply has increased. In June, during the early days of the summer outbreak, the vaccine was limited to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in the last two weeks. Eventually, the city opened up eligibility to include transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals; sex workers; and people under the age of 18. And after initially prioritizing first doses, folks are now able to receive first and second doses of the vaccine. Second doses are typically administered 28 days after the first dose.

The monkeypox vaccination campaign has coincided with a decrease in cases — including in New York City, which has seen such a steep drop in cases that there are now only handfuls of cases emerging on a daily basis.

“As a community working closely together, we have radically reversed the trajectory of this virus,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a written statement. “By introducing preexposure prophylaxis vaccination — or reaching people who may be exposed in the future — we will protect even more New Yorkers and continue to blunt this outbreak.”

Despite the broader eligibility, cases are still overwhelmingly confined to men. According to the city’s numbers, the total case breakdown thus far includes 3,350 men, 82 women, 58 transgender women, 50 non-binary/gender queer individuals, nine “unknown,” and six trans men.

Although the eligibility has been expanded, the Health Department issued a press release on October 5 outlining a list of those who are recommended to get the vaccine. The list includes men whose sex partners are men, trans women, or gender non-conforming or non-binary, especially people who have a history of sexual transmitted infections in the last six months; trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary individuals; cis women who have partners who are men who have sex with men or who are trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary.

According to the city health department, more than 130,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine have been administered across the city — and the vaccination campaign continues across the country. However, activists have expressed concern that only about 13% of the at-risk population has received both first and second shots of the vaccine — and racial disparities are growing. Nationally, Black people represented just 11% of cases in mid-June, but that number climbed to 51% of cases by the week of September 18-September 25.

Walk-in appointments are available. To learn more about monkeypox or to schedule an appointment, click here.