Weeks after the global monkeypox outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 6,300 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported in nearly all U.S. states, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
As the monkeypox case count rises nationwide, recent Google searches show many people online are wondering if vaccines previously administered in the U.S., such as the chickenpox vaccine, offer any protection against monkeypox.
VERIFY viewers Dave and Frances also asked if the chickenpox vaccine or previous chickenpox infection protects against monkeypox.
Does the chickenpox vaccine, or a previous chickenpox infection, protect you from monkeypox?
No, the chickenpox vaccine, or a previous chickenpox infection, does not protect you from monkeypox.
WHAT WE FOUND
Monkeypox and chickenpox are different diseases caused by different types of viruses, a CDC spokesperson told VERIFY. Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus, which is part of the same family of viruses as the one that causes smallpox. Chickenpox, on the other hand, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the virus that also causes shingles.
Since chickenpox is caused by a virus that is unrelated to monkeypox, having had a chickenpox infection or receiving the chickenpox vaccine in the past will not protect you from monkeypox, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center explains on its website. Mark K. Slifka, Ph.D., an immunologist and professor at Oregon Health & Science University, agrees.
“Chickenpox is a very common disease that many of us may have gotten as kids, but now that we've got the chickenpox vaccine, it's much less common. But, it does not protect against monkeypox, because they're just completely different virus families,” Slifka told VERIFY.
Chickenpox and monkeypox do have certain similarities, according to Cleveland Clinic. Both viruses can spread through skin-to-skin or prolonged face-to-face contact, but chickenpox spreads more easily than monkeypox.
Chickenpox and monkeypox rashes act differently, too. While the chickenpox rash can appear in waves, Cleveland Clinic explains that monkeypox sores develop at the same time. Chickenpox symptoms, including the rash, tend to get better within two weeks, while it takes two to four weeks for monkeypox to resolve.
The CDC and WHO say the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox. Data from past studies suggest that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.
If you have a new or unexplained rash or other symptoms, it is important to avoid close contact with others, including sex or being intimate with anyone, until you have been checked out by a healthcare provider, the CDC says.
More from VERIFY: Yes, monkeypox can spread by trying on clothing or changing bed sheets