Deputy health commish gets COVID vaccine to highlight safety

Dr. Torian Easterling, first deputy commissioner at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is monitored for 15 minutes after receiving his first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Canarsie High School on Feb. 7.
Photo by Dean Moses

A high-ranking city health official received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday afternoon and, in an effort to highlight its safety, invited Brooklyn Paper and amNewYork Metro along for the ride.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer Dr. Torian Easterling was one of over 400 people to be inoculated at Canarsie High School during the Feb. 7 snowstorm.

The sprawling vacation hub has traded in its young scholars for an array of medical professionals like Dr. Easterling. Appointed first deputy commissioner last September, he has also worked to oversee the injection dispersal process at the campus-turned-vaccine center.

On Sunday, he was on the other side of the needle.

“It is my time to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Easterling, who invited press along to showcase the procedure and highlight the shot’s safety. This paper shadowed Dr. Easterling as he underwent the inoculation process from start to finish — a process that looked the same for him as it does members of the general public hoping to join the ever-growing list of those immunized.

Before he was escorted to his scheduled appointment, Dr. Easterling first consulted with an on-site specialist who reviewed the health official’s information and eligibility. He was then taken to the school’s lunchroom, where the vaccine is administered. A registered nurse informs those waiting that they are ready for the next patient by displaying a green sign with the appropriate table number.

Dr. Torian Easterling is injected with his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.Photo by Dean Moses

There, Dr. Easterling sat with a fellow medical professional and prepared for his first dose of the Moderna vaccine by reiterating his name, address and allergies. Within a matter of seconds, the shot was administered, and he was being directed to the school’s auditorium where he would be monitored for 15 minutes and schedule his second appointment.

During this respite, Brooklyn Paper and amNew York Metro had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Easterling regarding his experience and recent vaccine hub controversies.

“I am feeling great, I am really feeling great. I am honored and humbled that I get to be in this position and get to show New Yorkers that the vaccine is safe,” he said as he sat in the recovery space.

Although the snow was falling in heavy clumps, the deputy commissioner said it was important that he keep his appointment in order to keep a promise.

“We have been saying we need to wait our turn and because I am eligible now, I chose to get the vaccine,” Dr. Easterling said.

While many have cited positive experiences at vaccine hubs, some have said navigating the government website to secure an appointment has proven difficult, especially for the city’s senior population — the prime candidates for the vaccine.

“We are being responsive, and we are hearing that as well. We are looking to improve our appointment scheduling system,” Dr. Easterling said. “A part of it is that we need to make sure that it is streamlined, we are asking the questions to ensure that a person is eligible but to also ensure that if anyone has had a previous allergic reaction to vaccines that we are identifying them.”

It then comes down to availability, the city official said.

“We need to streamline those questions, but also then being able to match those appointments, making sure that our times are clear, that it is really fluent,” Dr. Easterling stressed, adding that those having a hard time online should try the city’s call line: 1-877-VAX-4NYC.

You can watch a portion of our interview with Dr. Easterling below.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.