A Shot in the Dark: Overnight Vaccine Getters Take Burden Off Daytime Lines

A Shot in the Dark: Overnight Vaccine Getters Take Burden Off Daytime Lines

Jose Martinez, THE CITY

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Teacher Matt Tyler traveled from Washington Heights to the Sunset Park waterfront to get his coronavirus vaccine shot early Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, 2020.
Teacher Matt Tyler traveled from Washington Heights to the Sunset Park waterfront to get his coronavirus vaccine shot early Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, 2020. | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

As vaccination sites shifted into round-the-clock mode, New Yorkers found themselves in unexpected spots at odd hours.

“It wasn’t my first choice to come in the middle of the night to The Bronx,” said Nina Livingston, a Nassau County middle school teacher from Sea Cliff, Long Island. “But it was calm, it was quiet, there was nobody in there — I just wanted to get the vaccine.”

After entering the Bathgate Contract Postal Station for a 12:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday, Livingston emerged an hour later, the first dose of her vaccination complete in a phase of the rollout that now includes those 65 and older, along with teachers, transit workers, firefighters, police officers and those who live and work in homeless shelters.

On a night with near-freezing temperatures, those who had secured appointments online were allowed into the two-story building on Third Avenue and East 174th Street with “Get a Free COVID-19 Vaccine Here!” posters in the windows.

While the city’s vaccine rollout has been criticized, several people at the first 24/7 sites overnight said they encountered an efficient process and no major lines.

A traffic sign directs people to the vaccination center in an industrial part of Sunset Park early Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, 2020.

“It’s not going to be a perfect system,” said Jason Luft, a 37-year-old teacher who drove from Rego Park, Queens, to The Bronx for an after-midnight slot. “You have to be a little inconvenienced, but it’s worth it because it’s for safety.”

The appointment-only mass-vaccination site in the Claremont neighborhood of The Bronx was, along with one at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the first to swing into 24/7 service. 

City Hall plans to open three more 24/7 sites by Saturday — including one Tuesday in Lower Manhattan, one in Staten Island, and one in Corona, Queens — while aiming to distribute 175,000 doses of the vaccine this week.

The city has, according to the health department, received more than half a million doses of the vaccine and reserved more than 885,000.

“There’s a lot of people ready to get the vaccine literally all hours of the day and we’ll be able to accommodate them in all five boroughs,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

‘City That Never Sleeps’

For Matt Tyler, a 29-year-old history teacher, that meant traveling to Sunset Park from Washington Heights in Manhattan for a 2 a.m. Tuesday inoculation.

Tyler said he went to bed at 10 p.m. Monday, setting his alarm for three hours later, then took a Lyft to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where a large street sign directed people to the waterfront vaccination site.

“I chose the 2 a.m. spot,” he said. “As a younger teacher, I didn’t want to take up a spot in the day from anyone else, so I decided to hop on in the middle of the night.”

Teacher Nina Livingston traveled to The Bronx from her Long Island home to get a COVID-19 vaccine early Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, 2020.

While there have been long lines for months at some COVID-19 testing sites, those in the latest phase of the vaccine rollout didn’t have to worry about waits during the overnight shift at the all-hours sites in Brooklyn and The Bronx.

At both sites, a police vehicle with flashing lights on was parked in front, as those who had secured appointments trickled inside from the cold.

Vicente Estevez, a teacher at a Catholic high school in Manhattan, said he opted for an overnight appointment at the Brooklyn Army Terminal because he has to work during the day.

“The time of day doesn’t matter,” said Estevez, 40. “This is the city that never sleeps, so it’s important to have a service that’s available 24 hours.”

His father, who is in his 70s, is set to get his initial dose of the vaccine on Wednesday, but will avoid the overnight travel.

“He can come at 1 in the afternoon,” Estevez said. “That’s better for him.”

New Yorkers who want the vaccine must register by phone (1-833-697-4829 or 1-877-829-4692) or via websites created by the state, the city or the city’s public health system.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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