NEW YORK (PIX11) – Thousands more monkeypox vaccine appointments will soon be available to schedule in New York City, health officials announced.

More than 8,000 first-dose appointments will be available to schedule through the New York City health department’s vaccine portal starting at 6 p.m. Friday. The appointments will be scheduled out over the next two weeks.

“We expect this release of appointments will go quickly given the demand we have seen and are working with our federal partners to acquire more doses as quickly as possible,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said.

New York City received approximately 14,500 monkeypox vaccine doses this week from the federal government, officials said. An additional 4,000 doses will be made available through referrals from community partner organizations serving patients at the highest risk for infection.

Appointments at this time are for first doses only. The health department said it will reach out to those who have gotten their first dose when it is time to make their second dose appointment. 

Vaccines doses have been in high demand in New York City, which has become the epicenter for monkeypox in the United States. As of July 14, 389 people in New York City have tested positive for orthopoxvirus. All cases are likely monkeypox, and city health officials expect that there are more cases that haven’t been diagnosed.

Monkeypox is a contagious disease that is most often spread through direct contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus. It can also spread through contact with clothing, bedding and other items used by a person with monkeypox, or from respiratory droplets that can be passed through prolonged face-to-face contact. Transmission can happen during sex or other intimate activities such as oral, anal or vaginal sex, hugging, kissing or massaging.

The most common symptom of monkeypox is a rash or sores that can look like pimples or blisters. These may be all over the body or just in certain parts. Symptoms usually start seven to 14 days after exposure, but in some cases they may not appear for up to 21 days, according to health experts.

“Anyone can get and spread monkeypox. The current cases are primarily spreading among social networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. If you have multiple or anonymous sex partners, your likelihood of exposure is high,” the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website states.

Most of the people who have contracted monkeypox have not been hospitalized and have recovered on their own, health officials said.

New Yorkers can now sign up for text notifications to receive alerts about monkeypox in New York City, including appointment releases, by texting MONKEYPOX to 692692 or MONKEYPOXESP for alerts in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply.