By Arthur Lambert
Odysseus enjoyed a much easier trip than one is faced with when trying to get a vaccine in NYC. The sirens were no challenge compared to the NYC Vaccine Finder website. Odysseus spent a lot of time trying to get home, but nothing like the time one spends on Vaccine Finder trying to schedule an appointment. I spent three weeks on the site, calling almost all day, day after day. I got hang-ups, recorded messages—if the call was even connected—and instructions to fill out a form before being informed there is no vaccine.
After three days of nonstop calling, I finally got a live person. She said, “Hold on a minute,” and then I waited for two hours and twenty-nine minutes before she reappeared. I live in the Village so I asked for something in Manhattan. She just laughed and replied, “Honey, there are no appointments in Manhattan for weeks, but I do have one appointment in the East Bronx.”
I thought I’d better take this remote appointment even though it was far away because at the age of 86, living in a small building where 25 percent of the tenants have Covid—and with the more contagious and dangerous strain creeping nearer—sooner is better than later. I thought taking a car would be safer, so I paid $150 for the Carmel car service to drive me there. The lady who made my appointment said that if they ran out of the vaccine, I would be notified by telephone or email. Hearing nothing in the days leading up to the appointment, I hoped that was a good sign.
On the day of my coveted appointment, when I arrived at the distant East Bronx location after a 50-minute drive, there was a big sign on the entrance that said, “COVID Vaccines Here.” This increased my confidence. Upon entering, I was surprised to be met by 25 uniformed police officers and a police woman at a desk with lots of plastic enclosing it. There wasn’t a health worker in sight.
I showed the officer at the desk my appointment document, but she just waved it away and said, “We are not giving vaccines today.” I asked, “When you start giving them again, could my name be moved to the front of the list since I had an appointment and spent so much getting here?” She replied quickly, “No, you have to go back to the list and start over. The phone number’s on the door.” It turned out to be the number for Vaccine Finder. My heart sank.
Disappointed, I made the return journey home. Over the next week, I re-engaged in the struggle with Vaccine Finder, but found nothing. Eventually, a kind neighbor was able to make an appointment for me at the Javits Center. Snow was scheduled for the day of my appointment, but I hoped the center would be open.
After a much less expensive car ride, I arrived at the Javits Center on the appointed day. It seemed to be open, though there were no people outside. I entered, and though I was a little early, various member of the National Guard guided me through a labyrinth to one of the many reception tables. Most of them were unoccupied but, clearly, they were ready to do high volume business. I said, “You must be tired of inoculations,” to the lady who processed my paperwork. She had never heard that word. “Is that what I’m doing?”
More National Guard members ushered me to the actual vaccination station. There were dozens of these stations spread out throughout the immense Javits Center. I received my vaccination very quickly and was given a slip with the date for my second appointment. The National Guard showed me to another area where I was to wait in case of allergic reaction. There were a few dozen others ahead of me in this area, well-spaced, and we were offered water while we waited. After about 20 minutes, feeling none the worse for wear, I headed home.
The people at Javits deserve great credit for the job they are undertaking. I am sure my story is not a lot different from the trials others are enduring in their efforts to get appointments. It takes time, a lot of stress, and heroic determination, but in the end you’ll succeed. Everyone I know who has been there agrees—the Javits Center is a joy to experience.