Monkeypox vaccination rates are up. Will people need boosters?

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

A woman holds a mock-up vial labeled "Monkeypox vaccine" and medical syringe in this illustration taken May 25, 2022. Photo by REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo.

Across the U.S, monkeypox infections are falling dramatically, while LA had 53 new infections last week, which was a major drop from more than 300 cases in August, according to the LA County Department of Public Health. 

High vaccination rates, natural immunity from those recovering, and behavioral changes to reduce risk have all led to the decline in cases, says Dr. Kaiyti Duffy, chief medical officer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

She says monkeypox vaccine eligibility has expanded to include anyone who has regular sexual encounters with multiple people they may not know, plus those who perform sex work.

“Right now, anybody really who wants to get vaccinated and perceives themselves at risk, there is sufficient supply. That wasn't the case several weeks ago. But that's where we are now. The challenge is bringing folks in to be vaccinated who don't have a relationship with the health care system,” Duffy says. 

She points out that in one case, a health care worker got infected after washing the sheets of a patient who had many lesions. But the majority of cases involve people who engaged in prolonged skin-to-skin contact. “That could be in a dance venue if someone is rubbing up against the other person. It doesn't necessarily have to require sex, but we've seen that most often does.”

The virus will be around for a while in the U.S., and it’s unknown how long immunity lasts from vaccines, she says.

“When we get more data on that, I think we'll have a better idea of when people need boosters, if they do. I don't expect us to have a surge like we did over this summer … to the point that it's incapacitating us or overwhelming us. … But I think it'll be there for a good bit of time.”