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.

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 contact with people who have symptoms. Getting vaccinated provides extra protection.

People who are most at risk are being offered a smallpox (Modified Vaccinia Ankara - MVA) vaccination, which is effective against monkeypox.

Vaccination does not guarantee protection against monkeypox. But it's effective at reducing the likelihood of developing symptoms and severe illness.

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

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

How can I get vaccinated?

There are currently low vaccine supplies in the UK.

Vaccinations for people at risk of being exposed to monkeypox

People who are the most likely to be exposed to monkeypox are being offered vaccines by the NHS.

It's unlikely you will be able to get a pre-exposure vaccine until supply increases if you haven’t:

  • been contacted by your local NHS or sexual health clinic
  • got an existing scheduled vaccination appointment

If you have a scheduled vaccination appointment, you should attend unless told otherwise.

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

Vaccination following close contact with a monkeypox case is being prioritised for those at the highest risk of severe illness. This includes people with immunosuppression, children under the age of five years and pregnant women.

How many vaccines you will get

To protect as many people as possible only one dose of the vaccine is currently being offered to those who are eligible. It is expected that second doses will be offered when possible.

How is the vaccine given to people?

The vaccine is given through an injection either under the skin or into the muscle.

Vaccinations of more people once supplies increase

Whilst some walk-in clinics have taken place in London, it's unclear whether these will resume when the next batch of vaccine supply arrives in late September 2022. Once more vaccine supply becomes available, vaccination for people outside of the initial eligible groups will be considered.

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

Why is there a delay in people getting a vaccine?

Monkeypox outbreaks are occurring around the world, and cases have now been identified in over 85 countries. As a result, there has been a sudden global demand for the smallpox vaccination.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared smallpox eradicated in 1980. So manufacturers of the smallpox vaccine weren’t ready to rapidly increase production at such short notice.

UKHSA has procured an additional 100,000 vaccines which are expected to arrive in late September 2022.

What can I do to protect myself and partners until the vaccine supply increases?

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

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: 08 September 2022

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