Bushwick vaccine site draws crowds for ‘shot of hope’

An elderly man received his vaccine on Jan. 11 at Bushwick High School.
Photo by Dean Moses

Brooklynites lined the streets on Monday outside vaccine distribution centers, including Bushwick High School, where individuals outside the healthcare field could receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the first time. 

Jan. 11 marked another historic day in the fight against the novel coronavirus, ushering in the Phase 1B dispersal of the vaccine, nearly a month after the shot was made available to high-priority healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.

Throughout the tristate area, NYC COVID-19 vaccine hubs opened their doors to those in Phase 1B priority Monday. These inoculation sites aim to serve thousands of eligible patients who fall under the following categories: People ages 75 and older, teachers, education staff, first responders, public safety employees, public transit workers, grocery workers, fire service, police and investigations, public safety, corrections, schools, child care, and homeless shelters. 

At the Bushwick Campus on Irving Avenue, lines were broken up into two sections in order to prevent a sea of people from clustering around the block. Wait times were amended for the elderly over 75 and those with disabilities, allowing the vulnerable to skip the wait. 

Those eligible patiently awaited their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.Photo by Dean Moses

Reminiscent of the early voter lines the city saw in October and November, the winding Bushwick vaccine hub lines may have been long, but spirits were high. Many left the campus breathing a sigh of relief — the vaccine had finally been administered.

Elderly couples like Bill and Lucy Friedman made sure to bundle up in preparation for long wait times. Due to their age they were swiftly inoculated.

“I got it because I want to live, and I want everyone to get out of lockdown and end the problems we are facing while fighting the pandemic,” Bill Friedman said. 

The couple, both aged 77, trekked from Manhattan to their early morning appointment at the Bushwick Campus with aid from their son, who registered them online. The pair say the process was simple: Those interested merely create an account online and then fill out a questionnaire regarding age, preferred language, race, and sex identification.

Patients must also include their insurance, and answer screening questions. In addition, they must fill out a digital vaccination form prior to the appointment.

Hellen Walls, 89, said she took those steps in order to keep herself safe. The senior said she was both ecstatic and relieved to finally be able protect herself from COVID-19.

“I’ve been waiting since the vaccine came out. I’m very happy to get it,” she said.

At the site, Walls was directed to an available table where she was required to show her identification, and, in her case, confirm she was eligible by being over the age of 75. After the injection, Walls was instructed to rest in a socially distant area for 20 minutes to ensure no adverse reactions occurred.

“It was a great experience. There are great people here. Just lovely,” Halls said. “Don’t worry! It doesn’t hurt to get it. Everyone is very nice. The place is very clean and taken care of. Everyone should get the vaccine.”

For others visiting these sites, proof may be an employed ID card, pay stub or even a letter from an employer to substantiate occupation or priority status.

School workers, like Richard Brownstone and Carin Wood, were ready to receive the vaccine.Photo by Dean Moses

Teachers and school staff were also deemed eligible to receive the vaccine as of Monday.

Richard Brownstone is the head of a middle school, putting him in the same space as fellow staff members and children. For him, this vaccine is a level of an assurance for his colleagues, family, and the children he works with.

“It certainly makes me feel a lot safer going into a school. I’m in direct contact with kids all the time. I’m around them in the room where they eat and take their masks off. I feel a lot safer, and I have my own child at home and I want to know that I’m not bringing anything home to hurt them,” Brownstone said. 

Joann Nunziata, who also works at a public school, said she was motivated to get the vaccine after four of her colleagues caught the virus. In light of this and the fact that her husband has underlying issues, Nunziata made her appointment on the first day she was afforded the ability to get inoculated. 

“I feel absolutely fine. After you get the shot, you have to wait 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have a reaction,” she said, adding that she will return in February for her second dose. 

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, given about 21 to 28 days apart. These inoculations help the body fight the virus by teaching it to create an immune response. According to the Bushwick Campus vaccine hub leader, all sites are using the Moderna vaccine, as it’s easier to store. The Pfizer vaccine requires special freezers.

The NYC COVID-19 Vaccine hub was thoroughly cleaned during operations.Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday advocated for individuals to use the city’s Vaccine Finder to discover if they are eligible and where to locate a vaccination hub nearest them. 

“Vaccine Finder is a one-stop shop where eligible New Yorkers can find the closest vaccine provider to them and book an appointment with one click of a button,” Hizzoner said. “That means the COVID-19 will be safe, free, and easy to get for all New Yorkers. If you are eligible, please call 877-VAX-4NYC or visit nyc.gov/VaccineFinder to reserve your appointment today.”

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.