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Children are not eligible for monkeypox vaccine unless they’ve been exposed to virus

Monkeypox vaccines are not available to most people, including children, but there are exceptions if they’ve been directly exposed to the virus.

So far, more than 6,000 people in the United States have caught monkeypox, according to the CDC, but almost none of them have been children.

Data from the WHO suggest past outbreaks of the disease in other countries have been more severe in children. With the first child cases of monkeypox confirmed in the US in recent weeks, some parents are growing concerned their children could be vulnerable heading back to school without a vaccine.

But as several viral posts point out, health departments across the country are strictly limiting who is eligible for the shot.

THE QUESTION

Are children eligible for the monkeypox vaccine?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

Children are not currently eligible for either of the two available monkeypox vaccines as a preventative shot. They may be eligible, however, if they have had direct exposure to someone with monkeypox. 

WHAT WE FOUND

There are currently two monkeypox vaccines available in the US: Jynneos and ACAM2000. They can be administered either as a preventative measure, or following direct exposure to the virus in order to prevent illness. But there isn’t a lot of supply of either shot, so nearly all local health departments are only giving them to those most at risk.

Right now, that means men who have sex with men, since they make up the overwhelming majority of cases so far. And even within that group it can be difficult to get the shot as a preventative measure.

New York City, for instance, will only give preventative vaccinations to “gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men, and/or transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary” people who are 18 or older and “have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days.” 

Washington, D.C. has virtually identical requirements.

However, health departments also state anyone who has been directly exposed to monkeypox could be eligible for a shot, including children.

“Children and adolescents with exposure to people with suspected or confirmed monkeypox may be eligible for post-exposure… vaccination,” the CDC told VERIFY in a statement.

Allison Messina, who runs the Infectious Disease Division at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, says the current eligibility requirements make sense given the disease is so far mostly being reported within specific adult groups.

“Right now, there's not a big push to provide routine vaccinations for monkeypox for children,” she said. “Now, that may change if it continues to spread.”

The ACAM2000 vaccine is FDA approved for people of all ages, but can have negative side effects for people with weakened immune systems or certain skin conditions like eczema. The CDC says it can especially harm infants 12 months or younger with such conditions.

Jynneos does not have the same side effects, but it is only fully approved for patients 18 or older. However, the CDC says children directly exposed to monkeypox can request “a single-patient… authorization from the FDA, which can be acquired in coordination with state and local health departments and CDC.” 

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