Unlike the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. already has a vaccine stockpile for monkeypox and the government is releasing it to people at "high risk" for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailed plans to release a portion of the vaccine stockpile on Monday. As of Tuesday, the U.S. has one confirmed case of monkeypox and four suspected cases, with another one detected in Seattle.

The vaccines for monkeypox are a two-dose Jynneos vaccine and ACAM2000, both approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA licensed both for smallpox but the vaccines also prevent monkeypox infection.

"There has been a request for release of the vaccine from the National Stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of some of the early patients, so that is actively happening right now," Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC, said on Monday according to CNN.

She also indicated that the priority for vaccine distribution would be for people who had contact with known or suspected monkeypox patients. Priority would also go to healthcare workers and those who might be at high risk for contracting monkeypox.

The disease spreads through intimate person-to-person contact, not necessarily sexual contact, but there are reported cases of transmission via intercourse.

According to McQuiston, there are 1,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine currently available but she expects the number of doses to ramp up within the coming weeks. The Jynneos vaccine is made by Bavarian Nordic A/S, an international vaccine manufacturer, but is only approved for those 18 and older.

For ACAM2000, created by U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur Biologics Co., says there are around 100 million doses stockpiled. However, McQuiston warned that this vaccine is older and has some potential side effects.

"A decision to use that widely would have to have some serious discussion behind it," she said.

The national stockpile also includes doses of TPOXX, an antiviral medication designed to combat smallpox and monkeypox.

Many people in the U.S. and throughout the world are concerned about pandemics and emerging outbreaks of diseases. The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic understandably put people on edge about monkeypox.

Officials and experts were quick to reassure the public that a monkeypox outbreak would look nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We need to respect it and take it seriously, but we don’t need to panic," Blossom Damania, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told NBC.

Factfile on monkeypox and its current outbreak
Factfile on monkeypox and its current outbreak AFP / John SAEKI