New Yorkers battered by months of isolation and worry eagerly snapped up limited chances to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the state began its first mass inoculations of older people and many essential workers.
Monday marked the first day of universal eligibility for all people age 75 and up and a much longer list of workers, including transit employees, grocery clerks, teachers, police officers, firefighters and others.
Some pharmacies giving out the shots reported that their phone lines were jammed with customers seeking the vaccine. Even appointments between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. at the New York City’s two 24-hour vaccination sites quickly filled.
“It gives you hope,” said David Garvin, who turns 80 this week and got his shot at a Brooklyn site. “I’ve been in my room for six months.”
Around 500 pharmacies statewide will begin offering the shots this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. Another 700 have agreed to participate in the future.
Around 300,000 doses of the vaccine are now arriving from the federal government for state residents each week, but Cuomo warned that with more than 4 million New Yorkers now eligible, the wait for an appointment could be as long as 14 weeks.
For some, the wait for an appointment was shorted than expected. New York City special education teacher Annette Vasquez said she was surprised Sunday to be able to book an appointment for Monday, the first day New York teachers were eligible.
“I was expecting March or maybe April,” said Vasquez, 58.
She knows some people are holding off, wanting to see how others fare with the vaccine before getting it themselves, but she didn’t hesitate: “I think it’s the right thing to do. You’d better try anything that might help you than not try anything at all.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the eligibility expansion Friday, after a week of sparring between the Democratic governor and mayor over whether the criteria should be broadened beyond health-care workers and nursing home residents and staffers.