I don’t get nervous for many things in life. I worked for many years in some pretty tough bars and night clubs in New York as an entertainer. I then became a substitute teacher in a New York public school. One pretty much learns to handle any situation in both of those jobs, so nerves become a thing of the past. However, driving to Queens yesterday to receive the Covid-19 vaccine did indeed make me nervous for multiple reasons. First off, there was the question over whether I was doing the right thing getting an unapproved vaccine. This is a vaccine that has been approved by the FDA for emergency use only, so of course we all have questions as to the safety of the vaccine. How could that not make one nervous? Nonetheless, when weighing the options between the risks of the vaccine or the even greater risks of getting the virus at 59 years old, it was a pretty easy decision to sign up for the vaccine.
As a teacher, I qualified for group 1b to get the vaccine on Monday Jan 11. I made my appointment within the first hour of eligibility. I used the NYC Vaccine finder website to help me schedule an appointment. When I saw that Aviation High School in Sunnyside Queens was one of the sites the city was using to administer the vaccine, I chose that one. I know Sunnyside well, I had family that used to live there and I used to play in some of the clubs on Queens Blvd. It’s one of the best neighborhoods in New York City. Even more so, I knew that on the weekends it’s pretty easy to find parking underneath the elevated train tracks on Queens Boulevard. Parking is also free on Sundays. Getting to Aviation High School is very easy, its right on Queens Blvd five minutes from the Long Island Expressway and five minutes from the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.
My vaccine appointment paperwork told me to arrive no sooner than five minutes before my appointment. This made me a little nervous to cut something that close. How could there not be long lines? Of course, if there were long lines would that mean I would be late for my appointment and then shunned for being late and told “sorry, no vaccine for you today.” Yes, that sounds eccentric, but its honest, and you know everyone probably feels the same. I decided to arrive at least 20 minutes early just to scope out the scene. I had actually got there an hour and twenty minutes early and sat in my car for an hour before I headed towards the school.
Aviation High School sits on an entire New York City block. It is located between 35 and 36th streets on Queens Boulevard. There were no signs on Queens Boulevard directing those getting the vaccine to any particular entrance. After heading down 36th street and walking all the way around the school passing the front entrance, I found the line for the vaccine on 35th street. The school was using the school yard entrance that went directly into the gym.
There was a line of about thirty people on the street. There were a few police cars and a handful of city workers keeping everyone organized. At the front of the line were the steps that led down into the courtyard where there was another line of about ten people. Once you got to the top of the steps, a city worker checked your appointment number with their iPad. Once cleared, you were sent down the steps into the courtyard. The city workers were very friendly and helpful and answered everyone’s questions. People were nervous. A few drove up and jumped out asking where to park. I shouted out to them to go under the L on Queens Boulevard. They didn’t seem to understand what I meant, but pointing to that massive cement elevated train tracks got the job done instead.
I noticed that most of the people online were older New Yorkers in their 70s and 80s. One very old man in front of me seemed to be having a hard time standing. The man could also barely walk. One of the city workers noticed him and started huddling with other city workers to see what they could do for him. They had a hard time getting him down the steps to the courtyard, but they helped him very carefully. Once down the steps, a worker came out of another entrance with a wheel chair and they rolled him inside.
I had waited at street level about ten minutes before I got to go down into the courtyard. Once inside the courtyard, I waited only about another five minutes before I was let inside. Once inside the door of the building it took only about another five minutes before I found myself at the doorway of the school’s gym. At every turn inside there was a city worker pointing which direction to go. All of them were exceptionally friendly. Standing at the gym entrance was a well dressed woman who seemed to be a supervisor. She was watching intensely over the entire operation. Inside the gym were multiple tables set up as vaccine stations. When the supervisor saw one of the vaccine workers at an individual table hold up a sign with a number, she directed me to that table. There were many other individuals looking over everything that was going on in the gym. The women giving me the vaccine asked for my identification number and once again checked it on her iPad. After exchanging a little more information, she asked if I was ready for the vaccine.
I was asked to roll my sleeve all he way up above my shoulder. There seems to be a very specific muscle and point in the arm that they are administrating the vaccine into. She asked if I was ready and then began giving me the shot. I usually never feel the flu vaccine when I get it. This one I felt. It wasn’t that bad, but it was definitely a little more intense than the flu vaccine. I am sure it will feel different for everyone, but I did feel this one. It was over in about 5 seconds.
I set there for a second after receiving the vaccine. At once, an almost indescribable feeling came over me. The vaccine tech saw it and said, “yeah that’s the look I see in everyone eyes once they get it.” It was sort of a feeling of rescue and hope, yet with an edge that your still not out of danger, but somehow just took that first leap back toward normalcy. It was the first small sense of safety that I had not felt since last March.
After the shot I was handed a Covid-19 Vaccination Card with my ID number on it and a record of receiving the vaccine. On the back was a date for my next appointment. I had received the Moderna Vaccine. The lot number of the vaccine was also written on the card. I was then directed to another room where I was told I had to wait for 15 minutes before I could leave. In the waiting room a worker came up to me and asked how I was feeling. She then told me to check my phone for an email from the city on making an appointment for my second dose. The email was already waiting for me in my inbox. The city worker stayed with me until I had scheduled my next appointment. They give you the option of going to different city sites and picking the date as long as it was past 28 days. With that being done, and feeling no adverse effects, I left the building. I noticed when I walked out of the courtyard there was no longer a line to get inside. This was around 12.00 noon. The entire process from when I first got online to leaving the building had taken around 45 minutes to an hour. For the rest of the day I felt fine. No fever, no dizziness, no sick feeling. On day two, all I feel now is a little soreness at the injection site. Of course, I am only speaking for myself, but so far I am feeling great.
I had been nervous about many things getting the vaccine. I was especially nervous that I was going to be entering a center that would be in chaos. However, it was exactly the opposite. Not only was the NYC vaccine site run really well, there was this incredible sense of fortitude that I felt there. It was the same feeling I remember from 9/11. Everyone there had a job to do and they did it extremely well with an incredible sense of sprit and care towards those getting vaccinated in this time of immense crisis. Yes, of course we all know of the issues with the rollout on all levels, however what I saw and experienced yesterday at the site, gave me a great sense of hope, and made me once again proud to walk this Earth as a New Yorker.