Weekend Column: The Vaccine That Wasn’t

By Julia Zichello

I walked up the dreary gray avenue in January. My headphones were blasting:

“The world was moving she was right there with it and she was. The world was moving she was floating above it and she was. And she was…”

I was feeling uncharacteristically happy and very “right there with it…” The cathedral looked gorgeous. And I pondered their sign that reads “LoveOverRules.”  Did they mean to say “Love Overrules”? But the capital “R” makes it sound a little transgressive, which I liked. God I love this crazy beautiful horrible city.

I was on my way to get my first vaccine dose. And my buoyancy made me realize what a burden this has all been for the past few months, and even if I am “okay,” no one is really totally okay.

I arrived and stood on the line, bursting with hope and marveling at science and all the wonderful people who made this moment possible. Only, I was on the wrong line. I was ushered into a second line, the correct line, which was confusingly close to the proximity of the wrong line. Then I saw the facial expression of the medical professional, and even with the mask and face shield —I could see her “I am sorry” eyebrows. I was growing impatient as she spoke to an elderly woman ahead of me for a very long time. The words “no more” floated up like a bubble and after a few moments another one rose, and then… “POP”!

When I approached the desk I already knew what was up and I didn’t want this young medical professional to have to suffer at the hands of my healthy middle-aged educator complaints. So I told her I already overheard her and I know they have no more doses. She took down my information on a post-it note – one of the big rectangular ones. She said she didn’t know when, or if, they would be receiving more, but they would contact me if so. I saw her hand her colleague a sloppy stack of post-it notes with names on them. I don’t expect to hear from them again.

I walked out. I felt dejected but okay. Maybe I don’t deserve it anyway? Many people are in more dire need than me. I walked across 110th street and I started to tear up a little because something on the street made me miss someone. Seconds after my nostalgic tear tasted the air, some guy semi-accosted me on the sidewalk and lunged towards me with his eyes widened and no mask on. I swerved and kept walking. My heart pounded.

Then, I went to the store and bought some good cheese that was on “special.” I just don’t know about this city anymore. I really don’t. A part of me wants to leave, but not all of me. And I know the rest of the country and the world isn’t at its best either. I guess I received a dose of something today, it just wasn’t the vaccine.

COLUMNS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Nelson says:

      Ohhh I am so sorry you went through all that. These are stressful times & I hope/believe better ones are ahead for NYC…and the rest of the world, too. Please don’t give up on our City…the pendulum will swing and we will be glad we hung on there! We neighbors appreciate you sharing your story & send you love and strength via WSR. ❤️

      PS. I think you should share this with elected officials as a kick in the pants to pressure them to ramp up federal vaccine dispersement. My 91 yo Mother still can’t get hers and it is beyond frustrating.

      • Dr. Deb says:

        Be careful what you which for – I am a physician and my colleagues and I got our second dose of vaccine three days ago. We all have flu like symptoms: chills, fevers, aches, unable to sleep well because we can’t get comfortable, etc. These are all typical side effects. Luckily there are no stomach flu symptoms. Make sure you have a supply of over the counter pain meds at home before you get your second dose. You have been warned.

        • Jane says:

          I dunno. Do I want to believe a “Dr.” who writes, “Be careful what you which for.” That’s one far stretch to be considered a common typo. Not that there are reports, generally, about flu-like symptoms following vaccination – and those “symptoms” aren’t a joy ride under any conditions. The silence on this is a little deafening. Still… “which?”

    2. George says:

      I went for the vaccine today. 114th street. The experience was great. Many volunteers directing people inside and outside the location. Vaccine delivered by a nurse practicer who seemed as competent as all who were at the location. After the vaccine I was directed to a location to sit for 15 minutes before I left to ensure no adverse aftereffects. I was given a card explaining what I was given and directing me to schedule a 2nd dose in 28 days. I went home, log on to the website and I am am now scheduled for next month for a second dose. New York City. What a great place with great people.

      • Ellen Landsberger says:

        I volunteered as a vaccinator at 114th street today, the first day at the site. After a 13 hr day, I am so happy to read your message and to know you had a good experience. City employees and medical ( mostly) volunteers who had never worked together gave vaccine to more than 730 New Yorkers! Amazing! Tech glitches present challenges at all levels. Hoping the Biden admin will increase New York’s supply and we can decrease the viral load in the area. Stay safe everyone!

      • Mary J Cahill says:

        So when and how did you get your appointment? As soon as Mt. Sinai cancelled my appointment for Jan. 15 on the tv news the night of Jan. 14, I started looking for another spot somewhere. There were none.
        Mt. Sinai West did not call me to cancel. I went to Mt.Sinai West on the 15th, and they put me on a “priority” list to be called when they get more vaccine. I hope I hear from them sometime before I get covid. Age 88.

    3. marian lamin says:

      I was cancelled by Mount Sinai less than a day before my appointment, second dose too. Cruel and heartless to a old woman.

      • Jess says:

        Wait they canceled your second dose?! Or they canceled the first dose and second dose at the same time? I am worried they will run out and I won’t be able to have a second dose!!

    4. Judy Goldberg says:

      Your prose and emotion are beautifully expressed.
      I hope you get to have the positive experience that I had on Thursday night. I grabbed a last minute appointment at the Armory in Washington Heights (partnered with Columbia)and was in and out within an hour. Staff were efficient, competent and caring. A second appointment was made before checkout. Feeling lighter and cautiously optimistic. Keep trying every site. Appointments keep coming up.

    5. Sam says:

      This was my stepmom yesterday. And today, she got vaccinated. Because NYC has an amazing health care system and hundreds of NYCers have signed up to volunteer to help the vaccination effort. They have made a mass vaccination site at the armory at 168 street. Hope is on the way.

    6. cc in nyc says:

      My guess: born-and-bred NYers will stick it out.

    7. cc in nyc says:

      Here are the numbers for the U.S.:
      • 25 million doses distributed by the feds
      • 25 million people 75 and older
      • 31 million people aged 65-75

      OF COURSE THERE IS NOT ENOUGH VACCINE.

    8. Chrigid says:

      Julia–please don’t blame this on our city. I am 80 with some underlying conditions and Mount Sinai canceled my 01/19 appointment last night.

      The problem is that the Federal government was either lying or willfully ignorant when they promised, as recently as Tuesday, that there would be enough vaccine for a first shot for everyone over 65.

      The shots that had been held in reserve as second shots began shipping out as first shots late in December. I don’t recall anyone telling us.

      The last shipment went out last weekend, two to three days before the administration told us there was so much vaccine available that the eligibility age was lowered to 65.

      On Thursday night, news reports began coming in that the supply was “exhausted.” The cupboard is bare, and it’s not New York’s fault, so please go on loving us.

    9. Kelly says:

      Beautiful post. I find myself on the roller coaster of emotions with the writer. I understand feeling the disappointment but also the acceptance of having to wait. These are hard times. Much harder in the city.

      • monroe price says:

        I received my vaccination at 114 st. yesterday, an architectural gem of a public school. It was a moving, excellent, democratic experience, a society working together. When I arrived
        at 10:45 a.m. there was a long line with a possible snafu, but it was resolved expeditiously and things moved beautifully. An ample and helpful staff guided us into a jab-filled gymnasium, The atmosphere was knowing, professional, alert. My nurse
        was exquisite; She was a volunteer whose regular job was working with children who
        have cancer. i’m sure there are a thousand stories. Kudos to NYC Dept of Health.

    10. Diane says:

      My husband got his vaccine yesterday afternoon at Columbia Presbyterian. It went fast and smoothly.

    11. UWS Craig says:

      This is another example of the failure of the Trump administration. Mark my words – once Biden becomes president we will see vaccine delivery accelerate because he takes this seriously.

    12. Caryn says:

      I have seen these gargoyles, but not sure where. Were these on the Saint John the Devine Cathedral?
      As far as the vaccine, I wasn’t expecting anything til April or May, I have an appt at Javits for March, but whether there will be anything available then??? I do think they should give the vaccine to those priority and then make sure they have for them in the required time for second dose – before promising first dose recipients. No sense in wasting the first without the second.

      • NYYgirl says:

        The gargoyles are on the north side of 110th between Amsterdam and Broadway. Each one is different!

      • Caroline says:

        Luckily, there is not a strict time limit for the second dose. According to the CDC, the second dose does not have to be given exactly 3 weeks after the first.

        “You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval. ​”

        https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

    13. lynn says:

      Gargoyles are on an apartment building on 110th between Broadway and Amsterday. I forget which one.

    14. UWS to retire says:

      Btw, the picture of two sculptures are awesome. Hunched, fatigued, bony. Handmade by nameless artist. We won’t find these in suburb, or other big cities in the U.S.

    15. Steevie says:

      If people are under a lot of stress they can suddenly become unable to do even the most routine things. The key is to do nothing to raise the stress level.

    16. CV says:

      Wonderfully written.