Back on track: Holdouts, tourists vaccinated at NYC's Grand Central

·2 min read

Tourists came straight from the airport to join New Yorkers getting vaccinated in the grandeur of Grand Central station Wednesday as a pilot program designed to convince reluctant people to get immunized got underway.

Recipients began lining up in the large hall of the historic terminal in the heart of Manhattan shortly after 7:00 am (1100 GMT) to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"This process is designed to be simple so you can get your shot and be on your way in the shortest amount of time possible," said Catherine Rinaldi, president of MetroNorth railroad, just before the site opened.

Around 8:30 am, 25-year-old Chuck Smith was among the first to enter the white-sheeted booths for his shot in the arm.

Smith, who is unemployed, traveled specially from the Bronx. He could have got vaccinated earlier and closer to home but wanted a one-shot vaccine and "the convenience" of Grand Central.

He was also attracted by "the history" of the grandiose early 20th century station that was saved from demolition by Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the 1970s.

Insurance worker John Bovill has been in no hurry to get vaccinated because he contracted coronavirus in March 2020, at the height of New York's pandemic, and recently tested for antibodies.

But he wants to be able to travel this summer and Grand Central is easily accessible from his office.

"The airlines will require it, my work will probably require it," he told AFP. "Grand Central is easy to get to on the 7 line. So I figured, let's get it done."

Also lining up were a couple with suitcases. Giovanni Torres, 43, and his wife Angela arrived straight from JFK Airport after landing at 5:00 am following a flight from Bogota.

Only over 60s are eligible for vaccination in Colombia, said Torres. So, a month ago they had planned a five-day trip to New York, where they have family, to receive the vaccine.

When they heard on Monday that America's largest city would be vaccinating people in the subway, they decided to try their luck as soon as they arrived in town.

"We didn't know if it was true. We came straight from the airport... and it is true!" said Torres.

New York launched vaccinations in six subway stations and two suburban stations Wednesday. The scheme offers free train rides with the vaccine.

With 3.8 million of some 8.5 million inhabitants having already received at least one dose, authorities hope the program can help persuade the reluctant.

Pat Foye, president of New York's transport authority, said Wednesday the program would undoubtedly be "adapted" after the first few days depending on demand.

Grand Central is equipped to vaccinate 250 to 300 people a day but will increase capacity if demand warrants it, he said.


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