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VERIFY: Yes, receiving the smallpox vaccine can provide some protection from monkeypox

Because the monkeypox virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox, the U.S. CDC says.

PORTLAND, Maine — With the CDC reporting more than 10,000 cases of monkeypox in the United States, a common question is about protection from the virus.

On Tuesday, the U.S. FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the JYNNEOS vaccine that allows health care providers to administer the shot intradermally instead of subcutaneously, effectively multiplying the supply five-fold.

Because monkeypox comes from the same family of orthoviruses as smallpox, some people are wondering if the smallpox vaccine they received offers them any protection.

Melissa Stout from Frye Island asked that very question to NEWS CENTER Maine's Verify team.


"Does the smallpox vaccination I received decades ago protect against monkeypox?"



This is true.


Monkeypox is part of the larger family of Orthopox viruses, which also includes smallpox.

The U.S. CDC says:

"Because Monkeypox virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox. Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.

"Smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox when given before exposure to monkeypox."

Dr. Mark Abel, an infectious disease specialist with Northern Light Health, says that the level of protection could depend on how long ago a person got a smallpox shot.

The U.S. CDC states the last documented case of naturally occurring smallpox was in 1977

"That person probably has some protection. The challenge is we don't know how long the effectiveness of the vaccine lasts against monkeypox. If the person got that vaccine 40 or 50 years ago they may have some protection so that [if] they were to get the infection, maybe they wouldn't get as sick. But whether they still have enough protection to prevent getting the infection, we don't know that," Dr. Abel said.

The CDC even recommends that laboratory workers who handle orthopoxviruses get a smallpox vaccine for protection.

As of Wednesday, Maine's CDC reported three people who had monkeypox.

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