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Who is the smallpox (MVA) vaccine recommended for?

A smallpox (MVA) vaccination is being offered to people who are most at risk of exposure to monkeypox to help protect them.

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to smallpox, so vaccines against smallpox are being used to prevent or reduce the severity of the monkeypox infection.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended using the MVA vaccine more widely in those at risk to help reduce spread of the infection.

UKHSA currently recommends that MVA is offered to:

  • healthcare workers who are caring for, or are due to start caring for, an individual with confirmed monkeypox. This includes some staff in sexual health clinics who are assessing suspected cases
  • gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), at highest risk of exposure. Your doctor/nurse will advise you if they consider you are at high risk – for example if you have multiple partners, participate in group sex or attend ‘sex on premises’ venues. Staff who work in such premises may also be eligible.
  • people who have already had close contact with an individual with confirmed monkeypox. Vaccination with a single dose of vaccine should be offered as soon as possible (ideally within 4 days of contact but sometimes maybe given up to 14 days)

Two doses of the vaccine are normally required, but initially because of the limited supply, only one dose of vaccine was offered, to as many eligible people as possible. It is important to come forward for your first dose as soon as you are invited.

In September 2022, based on the doses already delivered, the declining incidence and the current vaccine supply, JCVI agreed that the next priority is to offer a second dose to GBMSM at highest risk from around 2-3 months after their first dose. This will aim to provide longer lasting protection and to protect the community against subsequent introduction from countries where the virus is still circulating at higher levels.