When New Yorkers think about getting medical care, the not-exactly-sterile subway system likely isn’t the first place that comes to mind. But the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s experiment with inoculating people against COVID-19 at subway, LIRR and Metro-North stations showed solid numbers on opening day.
The pilot program vaccinated 1,112 people on Wednesday, according to MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins. Convenience–along with free subway or rail rides–has been touted as part of the initiative’s appeal.
“We’re excited about that,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the turnout during his daily press briefing Thursday. “We’re getting as creative as we can to get people to get vaccines.”
Grand Central and Penn Station vaccinated the most people, with 260 and 256 shots distributed, respectively. At the East 180th Street station in the Bronx, 115 people got their shots, and 165 turned up at the Broadway Junction stop in Brooklyn. The Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station had the smallest turnout, with 47 people vaccinated.
Total = 1112
Grand Central – 260
Penn Station – 256
E 180th St – 115
179th St (Jamaica) – 73
Coney Island/Stillwell Ave – 47
Broadway Junction – 165
Ossining – 58
Hempstead – 138
& we’re still going!
— Abbey Collins (@abbey_e_collins) May 13, 2021
The turnout fell short of the program’s full capacity of about 2,000 to 2,400 shots a day–but it was a solid start. For comparison, the city averaged about 11,600 first doses each day prior to the pilot’s launch, spread across hundreds of sites. The MTA’s pilot hauled in about 10 percent of this tally at just eight participating stations.
Each of the train and subway hubs, which are open for five hours daily through May 16th, can accommodate about 250 to 300 people, Pat Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, said Wednesday. The stations can also expand based on demand.
MTA officials said that the pilot period could be extended and expanded to new sites if it goes well this week. But it’s unclear whether future plans might be disrupted by an upcoming lapse in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply.
The federal government will not be shipping any of the single-shot vaccines to states next week, Politico reported Tuesday. One of the plants manufacturing the vaccine, Emergent BioSolutions, has been plagued with problems that have slowed down production.
The MTA vaccine pilot isn’t the only program that relies on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. When the vaccine was put on temporary pause last month, it interrupted the city’s mobile vaccine van program as well as its initiative to vaccinate homebound New Yorkers.
WNYC/Gothamist reached out to the city and state Health Departments to find out how many doses of Johnson & Johnson are on hand and whether a shortage is anticipated.