Securing the coveted vaccine: How NYU fights back

After just over a year of the first confirmed COVID-19 death in New York City, vaccines are available, though access is limited. These are the stories of two fortunate NYU members who were able to secure the vaccine.

Despite the recent FDA-approved rollout of three coronavirus vaccines, vaccines are still highly limited to many New Yorkers. NYU Langone Medical Center offers vaccination eligibility to a limited number of its staff and students. (Illustration by Qashka Rulino)

Despite the recent FDA-approved emergency rollout of three coronavirus vaccines, New Yorkers still deal with eligibility and limited appointments, making large-scale vaccination seem like something far in the future.  

Fortunately for members of the New York University, NYU Langone Medical Center offers vaccination eligibility to some of its staff and students. They also assist them in scheduling and acquiring the vaccine.

Liberal Studies sophomore Sophia Moore-Smith works as an office assistant at Greenwich Hall, where she boxes up used COVID-19 spit tests for shipping. Her close proximity to these tests made her eligible for the vaccine.

“I was surprised because I didn’t think I would be.” Moore-Smith said in a phone interview to WSN. “I signed up immediately.”

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When Moore-Smith went to schedule an appointment, contrary to her expectation, she was met with a wide variety of options when it came to appointment times and availability. 

“I think there were more than 10 options I could have picked in all the boroughs,” she said. 

After scheduling an appointment, answering preliminary questions over the phone and confirming her eligibility through a New York State form, she was set to receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Feb. 11 — just three days after the initial notification of eligibility. However, Moore-Smith did not get vaccinated on Feb. 11.

“I went through kind of an ordeal,” Moore-Smith said. 

When she arrived at Langone at Trinity, a nurse asked her if she had an outstanding coronavirus test with pending results, to which she answered yes. She was turned away. 

“I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get another appointment, and I did cry,” Moore-Smith said with a laugh. “I cried. I felt like they were not very understanding of the situation even though I explained that I have to get a spit test every single week. And I was luckily thankfully able to reschedule for the next Tuesday, which was very soon after.” 

When Moore-Smith arrived home, she went through every email and notification NYU sent her concerning vaccination appointments. “I didn’t see anywhere on there that they could not give a test, or they could not give a vaccine to someone who had an outstanding COVID test,” she said.

Moore-Smith isn’t alone in this ordeal. Chelsia Rose Marcius, an NYU Journalism adjunct instructor and a reporter for the Daily News who was recently vaccinated, explained that she saw this issue occur with other patients at her vaccination appointment. 

“They asked me if I had had a COVID [test] where the results were pending. That’s the one  thing I remembered, I didn’t.” Marcius said. “Other than that question, which seemed to trip up maybe a few people that were in there, it was very straightforward.”

Marcius went on to explain that the nurse there said the reasoning behind this was they needed to be absolutely sure the patient was COVID-19 negative before vaccination. The only way to ensure someone is COVID-19 negative is through a COVID-19 negative test result. Therefore, patients with outstanding tests cannot be vaccinated. 

While Marcius had a relatively smooth experience at her vaccination appointment, Moore-Smith had a challenging time finding an appointment to begin with.

Moore-Smith had to reschedule the test for Feb. 16, delaying vaccination due to a policy she says she had no idea existed. 

“I mean I felt like there was obviously miscommunication between the departments,” Moore-Smith said. “I felt like I definitely had a negative experience, and I left feeling very confused and upset,” Moore said. “I feel like me having to not get it the first time I went was the opposite of efficient.”

However, during her rescheduled appointment, Moore-Smith received her first dose rather quickly. 

“I did feel like it was safe and clean, even though I was originally kind of wigged out that there were four people in this tiny [vaccination] room, but I was only there for really less than five minutes,” Moore said. “It was super fast.”

Moore-Smith received her second dose this past Tuesday. “I feel happy, and I feel relieved,” she said.

Marcius also received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. She was eligible for the vaccination because she teaches in-person classes on campus. Like Moore-Smith, Marcius was shocked at her eligibility. 

“When I got the notification for the vaccine I was a little bit surprised,” Marcius said. “So I figured, well I gotta take advantage of this, you know? I gotta sign up for it.” 

Marcius had an easier time scheduling and getting her doses of the vaccination, but experienced symptoms after her second dose. 

She described having a 100-degree fever for 24 hours, cold, chills, nausea and overall flu-like symptoms. However, she stressed that she did not mind these symptoms if it meant increased immunity. 

“If that is the worst of it, it’s totally fine and doable.” Marcius said. “It’s totally fine for me to have flu-like symptoms for 24 hours rather than risk getting this strain of coronavirus.” 

Symptoms aside, she details an easy and quick procedure. “It was very straightforward and simple,” Marcius said. 

She sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes, the administration of the vaccine took around five minutes, waited the required 15 minutes in the hall to ensure she didn’t have an adverse reaction and then left.

Moore-Smith attested to this in her interview, mirroring similar circumstances and wait times. 

“I had to wait around 20 minutes to half an hour,” Moore said. “There was no uncertainty about whether I was going to get it.” 

Marcius explained that post-vaccination, she had a bittersweet feeling. 

“I don’t feel much different than I did before. I still wear a mask when I go outside. I still feel vulnerable,” Marcius said. “I feel that this is one layer of protection that will help dramatically, and I feel very lucky to have gotten it as early as I did.”

Marcius then paused and talked about her mother, who has had cancer multiple times making her high risk for catching COVID-19. Marcius said that her mother lives in Ohio and explained the stress of having an immunocompromised family member living so far away amidst an ongoing pandemic.

“I’d rather have the people that I love in my life to have the vaccine before me, especially the older relatives that I have within my family,” Marcius said. “That being said, I know I feel very fortunate to have it, I don’t take it for granted.”  

Although widespread vaccination and immunity is not yet a possibility, this is a start. The emergency rollouts of the vaccines can offer a beacon of hope to New Yorkers ensuring that some progress is being made.

“It’s almost a little bit surreal to have it, in a way,” Marcius said. “I feel again just very lucky to have had it as early as I did.” 

Marcius ended by saying, “If I could make everybody safer by getting a vaccination, I want to do that.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Mar. 15, 2021, e-print edition. Email Sarah Gil at [email protected]

Correction: Moore-Smith received a negative test result and a pending result before receiving the vaccine. NYU residential students can have a pending test result and still get vaccinated, as long as they have a negative test result within 10 days as well. WSN fully regrets the error.

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