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How to protect yourself and partners from monkeypox, who can get a vaccine and where, and wellbeing support if you’re worried about monkeypox.

Monkeypox is a rare infection most commonly found in west or central Africa. There has recently been an increase in cases in the UK, but the risk of catching it is low.

If the NHS contacts you to invite you for a monkeypox vaccine, please accept the offer and get vaccinated at your earliest opportunity.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The NHS has information on the symptoms of monkeypox.

You’re unlikely to have monkeypox if you have not:

  • had any close contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox or with monkeypox symptoms
  • recently travelled to west or central Africa

What should I do if I have monkeypox symptoms?

If you're concerned about possible symptoms, you should:

What's the best way to protect myself against monkeypox?

The best way to protect yourself from monkeypox is to minimise close physical contact with people who have symptoms.

Getting vaccinated provides extra protection and the vaccination is highly effective at preventing monkeypox infections.

While the vaccine offers very good protection against monkeypox, it may not completely protect you from having the virus passed to you, but it will help protect you from becoming seriously unwell.

It's important to look out for monkeypox symptoms even when you are vaccinated.

Monkeypox can be mild for many but some of the symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, and some people can become more seriously unwell and require hospitalisation. In addition to protecting yourself, the vaccine may also help limit the transmission of the virus to the people who are closest to you.

Learn more about the vaccine in the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) monkeypox vaccination strategy.

How can I get vaccinated?

Monkeypox vaccinations are back in supply in London and being offered by the NHS to people who are currently eligible for vaccination.  Anyone eligible is being asked to come forward and receive a first dose of the vaccine.

If you’re in London and looking for a monkeypox vaccination, use the location finder provided by Sexual Health London. The finder lists bookable vaccination clinics in London, with links to how to book.

Monkeypox vaccination is free for everyone through NHS sexual health clinics and other pop-ups. You do not need to have secure immigration status to access these clinics, and clinics cannot pass your information on to others without your permission, including the Home Office.

If you're attending a sexual health clinic for your monkeypox vaccine, take the opportunity to get tested for other STIs while you're there.

Vaccinations for people who’ve been in close contact with a monkeypox case

Dependent on supply, you may be offered a vaccine if you've had recent close contact with a person confirmed to have monkeypox. Vaccination of close contacts is being prioritised for those at the highest risk of severe illness. This includes:

  • immunosuppressed
  • a child under the age of five years
  • a pregnant women

How many vaccines you will get

The first dose of the vaccine helps to prepare your immune system in case you do come into contact with the virus so it can respond more quickly and fight it. It can also take time to come into effect – from a few days to up to four weeks to be most effective.

You will be able to get your second dose around 3 months after your first dose. This timeframe is recommended as it should improve long-term protection against the monkeypox virus. Make sure you get the second dose to maximise your protection.

Will more people become eligible for the vaccine?

There are currently no plans to offer vaccination to a wider group of people. Monkeypox spreads through close, intimate contact and therefore the risk to the general population remains very low. By prioritising vaccination of those at the highest risk of infection, the overall risk to the population will be reduced.

More information on the vaccination priority groups and rollout can be found in the UKHSA guidance for people waiting for a monkeypox vaccine.

What else can I do to protect myself and partners from infection?

While getting vaccinated gives you protection against monkeypox, the suggestions below are likely to decrease your risk further.

Consider reducing your number of sexual partners or ‘take a break’ from sex

There is evidence that the current outbreak is being spread during sex and within gay and bisexual sexual networks. Consider reducing the number of sexual partners you have or even taking a break until you are able to get vaccinated.

Monkeypox is not sexually transmitted and wearing a condom will not stop you from getting it. Transmission has been linked to intimacy and close contact occurring whilst having sex.

Share contact details for contact tracing

If you're planning to have sexual contact with someone new, consider sharing contact details so that you can get in touch if you develop symptoms. 

Look out for monkeypox symptoms

Be aware of monkeypox symptoms. Check your body for any unusual blisters, spots, or rashes as this may be monkeypox. If possible, encourage sexual partners to do the same before having sex. If you suspect you have monkeypox you should call 111 or your local sexual health clinic.

Do not share bedding or towels

Don’t share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox.

If you’ve been in close contact with someone with monkeypox

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has guidance for close contacts of a confirmed monkeypox case. Most close contacts now no longer have to isolate for 21 days unless they develop symptoms.

If you're a contact of a case, take a break from sex and intimate contact to protect others.

Get wellbeing support if you’re worried about monkeypox

Get information and support if you live in Southwark, are worried about your or someone else’s wellbeing. This includes one to one, peer and signposting support.

You can also contact the LGBTQ+ helpline Switchboard. It’s a safe space to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional well-being. It includes a live web chat.

Get more information about monkeypox

Page last updated: 07 November 2022

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