‘Ring vaccination’ could help stem monkeypox spread

July 6, 2022 – Vaccinating a “ring” of people around an individual infected with monkeypox could be effective in curbing the spread of the disease, according to some experts.

As of July 5, 2022, there were more than 6,900 confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide and 560 in the U.S., part of an outbreak that began in mid-May, according to the CDC. The disease, which spreads primarily through close contact between people exhibiting symptoms, is a relative of smallpox but is less contagious with milder illness. Symptoms include a rash that can look like pimples or blisters as well as fever and chills.

In a July 1, 2022 article in Leaps.org, Phyllis Kanki, Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted that an existing vaccine called Jynneos can be effective in preventing the spread of monkeypox via ring vaccination. “Since monkeypox spreads by close contact and we have an effective vaccine, vaccinating high-risk individuals and their contacts may be a good strategy to limit transmission,” she said.

Keletso Makofane, a health and human rights fellow at the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights at Harvard University, has doubts about how effective ring vaccination could be, given community transmission. Speaking to MSNBC on July 1, he said that U.S. case counts are likely too low, noting that only about 20 people per day were being tested for monkeypox in New York City in the midst of Pride season, which typically brings millions to the city to mark the occasion. “So if you’re thinking about a situation where there’s that number of people, the scale of testing is just … ridiculously low,” he said.

In a June 25 NPR article, Makofane said that the testing situation is so “abysmal” that he decided to launch his own study, called RESPOND-MI, to determine the prevalence of monkeypox in New York City and to help friends share information about the disease.

Makofane thinks that much more vaccination is needed to curb the monkeypox outbreak. He said in a July 4 MSNBC interview that while “it’s great that vaccine is being taken to hotspots, we need more vaccine, and we need to have a predictable supply of vaccine.”

Makofane was also quoted about monkeypox in articles in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and STAT, and he co-authored both a New York Times op-ed and a PLOS blog about the disease.

Read the Leaps.org article: Ring vaccination strategy can rein in monkeypox virus, scientists say

Watch the July 4 MSNBC interview: Biden Admin Makes More Monkeypox Vaccines Available

Watch the July 1 MSNBC interview: Monkeypox Outbreak Growing Around the World

Read the NPR article: Monkeypox outbreak in U.S. is bigger than the CDC reports. Testing is ‘abysmal’

Read the New York Times article: As Monkeypox Spreads, U.S. Plans a Vaccination Campaign

Read the Atlantic article: Monkeypox Vaccines Are Too Gnarly for the Masses

Read the STAT article: How the hard lessons of the AIDS crisis are shaping the response to the monkeypox outbreak

Read the New York Times op-ed: To Fight Monkeypox, Remember the Lessons of Covid and H.I.V.

Read the PLOS blog: Monkeypox is Not a Gay Disease

This article was updated on July 7, 2022.