The monkeypox vaccine: a Swedish expert answers your questions

August 17, 2022 Swedish Health Team
a vial of the monkeypox vaccine is drawn up into a syringe


In this article:

  • The MPV vaccine supply is currently limited, with more expected later in the year. 

  • Swedish has partnered with the King County Department of Health to ensure that confirmed MPV patients have access to treatment through a central supply location.  

  • If you are concerned that you are symptomatic or have contracted the virus, get tested by your health care provider.

Monkeypox virus (MPV) transmission rates are increasing in Seattle and King County. Though King County’s case numbers are relatively small, both Snohomish and Pierce Counties have each reported cases in recent weeks. Though earlier cases occurred in people who traveled outside Washington state, more recent cases are occurring in people who had not traveled recently. King County public health officials said this means they were likely exposed to MPV locally. 
The Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) announced in early July that Washington state was set to receive some 400 doses of the two-dose MPV vaccine through the federal government’s plan for the vaccine nationwide.  
We spoke with Evan Sylvester, Regional Director of Infection Prevention at Swedish, to learn more about vaccine distribution in King County, who is eligible and how we can protect ourselves and others from MPV. 

What is MPV?

MPV is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. The strain that is currently circulating in the 2022 outbreak has so far been the West African clade, which is less deadly than the Congo Basin clade, which we have not seen. MPV is not related to chicken pox; it is a cousin of smallpox but causes a much milder disease. Despite the name, the root cause of MPV remains unknown. The first human case of MPV infection was recorded in 1970.  

What vaccines are available? 

There are currently two vaccines effective in preventing MPV infection: the Jynneos vaccine and the ACAM2000 vaccine. The FDA has approved the Jynneos vaccine for preventing MPV and smallpox infection among people 18 and older. The ACAM2000 is FDA-approved to prevent smallpox. The U.S. is currently using only the Jynneos vaccine because it’s safer and has fewer side effects; health officials plan to expand vaccination for individuals at risk first as there is not enough vaccine for everyone who wants it. 

How many vaccine doses will be available in King County and who is eligible? 

King County will receive up to 710 courses of vaccine (1,420 doses) from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This supply is extremely limited, so the county is reserving these doses primarily for people who are close contacts of someone with known an MPV infection and with high and intermediate risk of exposure. Vaccination for these individuals may prevent close contacts from getting MPV or may reduce the severity of their illness. The national supply of vaccine for MPV is also currently limited, although more is expected later in the summer and into the fall.  The CDC is sending the vaccine to areas with a high number of cases. King County has relatively few cases compared with other areas at this time, so we aren’t currently prioritized to receive a large number of doses of vaccine.

Will more people become eligible as more vaccine doses become available? 

When King County receives more vaccines, our understanding is that the aim will be to provide access initially to those at highest risk for exposure to MPV. The infection is transmitted by close and intimate contact, including skin-to-skin and sexual contact. For example, some locations that have received more vaccine, internationally and in the U.S., have prioritized people who recently have had multiple sex partners, participate in anonymous sex, or attend “sex on premises” venues.

How is Swedish preparing and will monkeypox vaccines be available from Swedish providers? 

Swedish has partnered with King County Department of Health to ensure there is a central supply location for confirmed MPV patients to access. This will also support any caregivers that may have been inadvertently exposed during patient care. 

How can I protect myself and others? 

Educate yourself about the virus and how it spreads. If you are concerned that you are symptomatic or have contracted the virus, get tested by your healthcare provider. For information about testing and testing sites, visit the CDC testing site locator. The CDC also advises abstaining from sex if you or your partner has an MPV infection or blisters, rashes or sores that could resemble MPV infections. 

Find a doctor

If you have questions about the monkeypox vaccine, contact the Swedish Infectious Disease office. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources 

What you need to know about monkeypox

Monkeypox vaccine Q&A: Who is eligible now and why – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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