On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved for kids under 18 years old to get vaccinated if they are at high risk for monkeypox.
This emergency authorization to vaccinate children will allow for more people to be protected from the virus, however, the vaccine will still only be available to children who have been exposed to the virus in some way.
Previously the Jynneos vaccine was only available to those who were 18 years and older. Now the vaccine will be available to kids who are determined to have a higher risk for severe disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents who are at a higher risk for severe monkeypox include those who:
Have an immunocompromising disease
Have a history of skin conditions (including eczema, impetigo, or psoriasis for example.)
Have an abnormal infection involving the eyes, face or genitals
Are under 8 years old
“It’s not a preemptive type thing,” Scott Clardy, deputy director, Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department said during the morning briefing.
Anyone, including children, can be at risk of contracting monkeypox. So far there have been few cases among children in the United States. The median age of those who have been infected nationwide during this outbreak is 35 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“So I think the best thing you can do is just try to protect the kids. If you know they’re going to be around somebody who has monkeypox try to isolate them,” Clardy said.
What do we know about household spread?
The reality is: household spread is possible, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, who is the medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System.
Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to skin contact, touching objects that have been exposed to an infected person’s lesions and in some cases, through contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person, according to the CDC. This can make it hard for a household member to avoid becoming infected if they are living with someone with the virus.
The virus can also take two to four weeks until the virus clears so if someone in the house is infected it’s important to make sure that they are well-isolated from the rest of the household, including any kids.
“I think with kids, you just want to basically do the same thing you do with adults: watch for signs of infection, do what you can to keep kids away from folks who actually have active infections…other than that, you just watch for infections,” Clardy said during the briefing on Friday.
What about school?
Local health officials are optimistic that the vaccine and other safety precautions, like isolating and handwashing, should be able to curb this outbreak from spreading in schools.
“The reason we’re working so hard and trying to really jump on this quickly is [because] we might really be able to knock this out, where we don’t see a lot of transmission and children, and we don’t see it in school environments or daycare environments,” Dr. Allen Greiner, medical officer for the Unified Government, said during the University of Kansas Health System’s morning briefing on Friday.
The disease is spread similarly to diseases like smallpox, which was seen in a lot of children but now there are more tools available to stop the virus before it becomes widespread, according to Greiner.
“We weren’t using the techniques for smallpox inoculation that I think we could have been,” Greiner said. “But now we’ve got an effective vaccine and we have a healthcare system where we can deliver things quickly.”
If you have any questions about monkeypox and how it relates to your kids, email us at KCQ@kcstar.com