Fauci Says Gay Men Should Get Monkeypox Vaccine First

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, has said men who have sex with men (MSM) should be among those prioritized for the monkeypox vaccine in the United States.

Monkeypox continues to spread around the world, with nearly 17,000 cases reported globally as of July 22, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the weekend, the virus was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The surge in monkeypox cases has caused concern since it marks the first time the virus has ever spread significantly outside of West and Central Africa, where it is endemic.

It's possible for anyone to catch monkeypox, though one feature of the current outbreak is that cases have been concentrated among men who have sex with men, and particularly those who have multiple sexual partners, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday.

Monkeypox vaccine
A healthcare worker administers a monkeypox vaccine to someone in London, England, on July 23, 2022. Eligibility for the vaccine differs across states in the U.S. Hollie Adams/Getty

"It's therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities," he added.

Part of the global strategy to control monkeypox will be with the use of vaccines. The U.S. had distributed nearly 200,000 doses of as of last Wednesday.

During an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, Dr Fauci was asked whether MSM communities should be given the vaccine first. He said he thought that this should be the case.

"If you look at the truly broad protective nature, you really want to get people who are at risk because of behavior. For example, the MSM population who are on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV—the very fact that they are on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV would immediately put them into that classification where they very likely should get vaccinated in a preventive way.

"So there are two pills to that; one in which you know you've been exposed—clearly those people—but ultimately, people who are at risk through sexual networks or what have you."

Last week, Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., told Newsweek that the vaccine should be prioritized for people most at risk of the disease, which he said includes the MSM community and those who "participate in active sexual networks where they have frequent intimate contact with a range of others."

Hunter added he was concerned about a risk of transmission in heterosexual networks as well and that he personally would want to see vaccines being given to female sex workers too.

Currently, many jursidictions in the U.S. where the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine is available are limiting availability to those who are deemed at high risk, which differs between states.

In Washington D.C., for example, sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender are eligible for the vaccine in addition to staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs. The MSM community is also eligible for the vaccine if they have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners within the previous 14 days.

In New York City, only MSM individuals who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the previous 14 days are eligible.

This also includes transgender individuals.

More broadly, it should be noted that the Jynneos vaccine has only been authorized for the prevention of monkeypox (and smallpox) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in people who are 18 years of age or older and determined to be at high risk of infection.

Despite the concentration of cases in MSM communities, experts have warned that stigma and discrimination should be combated and that monkeypox is a disease that can affect anyone.

Monkeypox causes a rash among other symptoms and spreads through direct contact with the rash or bodily fluids, as well as by prolonged face-to-face contact and contact with contaminated objects, according to the CDC.

Update, 7/25/22, 8:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a new video clip of Dr Fauci's MSNBC interview.