Hundreds of people were forced to wait for hours at the Javits Center on Tuesday, as New Yorkers reported delayed appointments and overwhelmed staff at the state-run vaccine mega-site.
Amanda Brown, a 36-year-old Upper East Side resident, told Gothamist she arrived at the site 15 minutes early for her 2:45 p.m. appointment, and was surprised to see a line that stretched around the convention center and out to 12th Avenue. She waited more than four hours — without food, water, or any information about the hold-up — before receiving the shot at 7 p.m., she said.
"Everyone was telling me go to Javits because it's the most efficient place. Then when I walked in I was like: 'What the hell did I sign up for?'" Brown, who suffers from an underlying medical condition, told Gothamist. "It was a free for all."
Another person with an appointment on Wednesday, who declined to be named, described the scene as a "clusterfuck." At one point, after three hours of waiting, an older woman on line behind her collapsed from exhaustion, the person recalled.
A spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, Jack Sterne, attributed the reported chaos to "growing pains," as the state ramps up its distribution of doses. The number of vaccines administered at the Javits Center has increased by 500% in recent days, he said, and would soon grow even more; as the first tranche of Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives this week, both Yankee Stadium and the Javits Center will be temporarily open for 24 hours in order to handle the new infusion of doses.
Similarly long waits were not apparent on Wednesday morning. Among those who got their shot was Michael Cohen, the former lawyer for Donald Trump, who left prison earlier this year as part of a COVID-related compassionate release. "The lines moved incredibly and with precision," Cohen told Gothamist. "It was a flawless operation."
But the previous day’s struggle has raised concern about the allocation of resources, and recalled earlier points in the pandemic, when New Yorkers were forced to stand on line for hours in order to receive a COVID-19 test.
"Based on accounts that I’ve heard, it appears they dramatically increased the number of appointments without a comparable increase in staffing," Mark Levine, who chairs the City Council's Health Committee, told Gothamist.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has also criticized the state's approach to administering the vaccine, noting that more than 42 percent of shots given out at the Javits Center had gone to non-city residents. He called on the state to share more of its allocated doses with the city in order to prioritize an equitable distribution.
"We often have questions about state-run facilities and we don't get enough answers from the state, and this why we need full local control," de Blasio said on Wednesday morning. "If New York City is going to be asked to vaccinate a lot of folks from the suburbs, New Jersey, and Connecticut, then give us more vaccine."
To make a vaccine appointment at the Javits Center, you can use the state's 'Am I Eligible' website or call NY State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829); appointments for the J&J vaccine pilot go live at 8 a.m. on March 4th. For Bronx residents who want to make an appointment at Yankee Stadium, visit Somosvaccinations.com or call 1-833-SomosNY; appointments for the J&J pilot are live.