Photos: Jason Gonzalez. Bronxites wait for their COVID-19 vaccines in front of Yankee Stadium on Feb. 6.

Bronxites line up outside Yankee Stadium to strike out COVID

Friday was opening day for delivering vaccines to Bronx residents in the “house that Derek Jeter built.” But city officials say it was just the start to the vaccination season at Yankee Stadium.

Thousand of Bronx residents stepped up to give an arm Friday, many braving early morning rainfall in hopes of striking out COVID for good.

It was the first time the general public has been allowed inside the stadium for more than a year. Fans weren’t allowed in the stands last season, to prevent spreading of the COVID virus.

“I am excited that we were able to have this site in the Bronx, so thank you very much to whoever organized it,” said Sharon Paulino after receiving the vaccine.  “I wasn’t concerned [with respect to the side effects] at all. I believe in science and the facts. I am very excited to come back [for the second dose].”

“The irony is that the set-up is by the bar,” she noted. “They should have had some champagne there to celebrate!”

Yankee Stadium now holds the honor of being New York’s largest vaccination site. This strategy is part of the push to inoculate every community member residing in the city’s northernmost borough. The Bronx was the hardest hit by COVID-19 of the five boroughs.

Organizers and Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed that appointments for vaccinations in the coming week were still available and the site will remain open well beyond then.  The city and state hope to see at least 15,000 Bronx residents vaccinated in the first week. The vaccine is free and recipients’ immigration status will not be checked, according to a state COVID information site.

And while the stadium is moonlighting as a vaccination site from the hours of 8 to 8, seven days a week, de Blasio also stated that the hours of operation will change to 24 hours once there are more vaccines available.

SOMOS Community Care has assumed the responsibility of administering the Pfizer vaccine to all eligible residents of the Bronx. 

The vaccination process was pretty simple, according to Julio Ogando, a fire safety director.

“It was actually a lot faster than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a lot more packed and denser with a lot more people.”

“I went in, they [Somos medical personnel] asked me what I do for a living, I told them, they filled out a card,” he said. “They give you a card, basically telling you when you come back for the second dose, which is also very helpful. I went in got the vaccine, they told me I had to wait 15 minutes just in case I had any allergic reactions to it, I waited the 15 minutes and that was it.”

Those eligible for vaccination now include: any Bronx resident 65 or older, medical personnel, teachers and other education workers, childcare staff, first responders such as EMTs, law enforcement and MTA personnel.  Just recently Gov. Andrew Cuomo added taxi/uber drivers and restaurant workers to the eligibility list.

Julio Ogando, a Bronx Fire Safety Director, waits for his vaccine.

The list of those eligible got longer Friday when Cuomo announced that starting Feb. 15, state residents with underlying medical conditions will be eligible for the vaccine.  Those conditions include, but are not limited to, cancer, chronic pulmonary diseases like COPD or moderate to severe asthma, heart conditions, and severe obesity.  A full list of eligible underlying conditions cited by the governor can be found here.

Because of a significant number of Bronx residents have indicated a lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, during some much-needed down time, Somos physician Jacqueline Delmont shared her feelings as to why all of the myths surrounding it should be debunked.

“Everything—getting in a car, hopping in a plane can have an adverse effect,” she said. “But we know what COVID-19 does. It kills our people; it makes you ill. Even young people have severe side effects from the disease itself.”

Delmont advised those concerned about the vaccine to speak to their doctor to get all their questions answered and then sign up to be vaccinated.

“We have already been doing well with social distancing and our masks, we can always do better, but we have been doing well with that. The next step now that we have something available is getting the vaccine,” she added.

Those seeking a vaccine must first make an appointment — walk-ins will be denied.  Residents can go directly to the stadium to make an appointment or call 833-766-6769, or sign up online at https://www.somosvaccinations.com.

https://www.motthavenherald.com/2017/02/20/0426/