The Mpox vaccine campaign is ramping up in Philadelphia as cases rise across the country

Despite a nationwide boost in reported mpox infections, the number of cases in Philadelphia remains low so far, health officials say.

But this summer, local health organizations that work with men who have sex with men – a group at higher risk of contracting the virus – are ramping up vaccination efforts to protect more people.

“We want to cast the net as wide as possible,” said Stephan Lynch, director of nursing and integrated services at Mazzoni Center, a Center City-based facility LGBTQ health organization.

Mpox is a virus similar to smallpox, but its symptoms are milder, including rash and flu-like symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the epidemic began in the United States in 2022, with cases peaking at 3,000 cases a week across the country this summer.

The CDC says the virus can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with a smallpox rash or scab and by contact with saliva, mucus or body fluids around the genitals of a person with smallpox. Pregnant people can also transmit the virus to the fetus or newborn during and after delivery.

Lynch said the groups most at risk include gay, bisexual and transgender people who have sex with other men, as well as people who often have anonymous sexual partners.

MPox cases boost outside of Philadelphia

Earlier this month, the CDC issued a warning about a more grave mpox variant that is endemic to Central Africa and is increasingly spreading in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. No cases involving this variant have been reported in the US

The number of cases associated with the variant responsible for the mpox outbreak in 2022 remains largely stable, thanks in part to the vaccination campaign.

However, since January, the number of cases across the country has been higher than during the same period in 2023, according to CDC data. New York saw an boost in reported cases during this period: 39 cases were identified between January and April 2023, compared to 151 cases between January and April 2024.

In Pennsylvania, there was only one case of monkeypox reported from January to April 2023, and 33 cases in 2024. Philadelphia health officials say the city’s case numbers have remained stable since last year.

Given that people often travel for Pride Month in June (Philadelphia’s Pride Parade is on Sunday), health care workers want to protect themselves from the potential spread of the virus, Lynch said.

“The stakes are low here, which is beautiful,” Lynch said. “That said, it is Pride season, not just here, but around the world. People travel, they go to events, and they may travel to places where the incidence of mpox is slightly higher.”

Promotion of preventive vaccines

Mazzoni is launching a campaign on dating sites frequented by men who have sex with men, specifically targeting men of color: Vaccination rates among Black and Latino men who have sex with men are lower than among their white peers, Lynch said.

Lynch said that during the height of the mpox epidemic, Mazzoni vaccinated as many people as he could, whether they were patients at the center or not. The organization then focused mainly on vaccinating existing patients. However, this summer it will be offering mpox vaccines again to anyone who wants them.

“There is no longer a nationwide vaccine shortage like there was when this issue first came up, so we are allowing people to identify as someone who may be at risk,” he said.

Mazzoni wants people at high risk to be fully vaccinated. The mpox vaccine, Jynneos, is available in two doses.

“Two years ago, during the initial outbreak, many people in high-risk groups received their first shot. But many didn’t make it the second time around,” Lynch said.

Ideally, the second Jynneos shot should be given four weeks after the first, but it is still effective when given two years later, Lynch said.

“Even if you had one two years ago, you don’t have to start over and buy two more. For many people, the idea of ​​firing one shot is much more pleasant than two shots,” he said.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts