Outside Bushwick Educational Campus, a line of mostly young men stretched down Irving Avenue on Sunday, waiting for their first dose of the monkeypox vaccine.
“I’m craving it. My pores are like, ‘Gimme gimme gimme,’” Larry Bullock, a bartender, told Gothamist as he waited in line. “I work in a gay club, I need it, I’ve been wearing gloves to work for the last four nights and I never wear gloves to work. But I’ve noticed my hands are so soft and supple now.”
The high school was one of three large-scale sites that opened Sunday as New York City ramps up its vaccination efforts to tamp down on rising cases. As of Friday, the city reported 461 cases of monkeypox which account for nearly a third of all U.S. cases recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The city is struggling to meet demand with a limited supply of doses, and last week, officials botched the vaccine roll out when its outsourced appointment websites crashed. Eventually, the city transitioned to using its own appointment scheduling site where appointments quickly disappeared.
“I tried probably at least six times, because as soon as you would hit on the time, the time would actually just vanish right in front of me, and it says pick another time,” said Albert Whitley, 46, from Brooklyn.
He said it was harder to nab a shot slot for monkeypox than it was for COVID-19.
The Bushwick school opened at 11 a.m. for appointments only, but the vaccines arrived nearly 20 minutes late, Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed.
That appeared to delay those with the earliest appointments, who waited up to an hour to get inside, those in line told Gothamist. The line began moving much faster in the afternoon and Gallahue said any outstanding issues had been resolved by then.
Gallahue said more than 4,000 shots would be distributed on Sunday with each mass vaccination site receiving 1,392 first doses. The vaccines are part of the 14,500 doses that the federal government sent last week and more are expected next week.
Gallahue said additional appointments would open up once the city receives more vaccine supplies.
On line, residents read books or scrolled through their phones, periodically stopping to greet friends, old co-workers and acquaintances who had also secured appointments.
“I see everyone that I see at the club here,” Joseph Alexiou, 38, a freelance journalist from Brooklyn said after yelling, “Hey girl,” at a passing acquaintance.
“We’re the ones that are most susceptible to the infection, it’s people who go out and not people who are sitting at home with kids, but people who are out, partying or out in bars and clubs,” he said. “I’m proud of queer people and I’m proud of gay men that all got off their butts today and took the time to make these appointments and were willing to spend half a day to make sure that they don’t spread this horrible disfiguring looking pox to the general population. So you’re welcome, straight people, we’re on it.”
Current cases of monkeypox are primarily spreading among gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with other men, city officials said. The virus causes rashes or sores all over the body and can spread through sex or other close physical contact.
Khoa Sinclair, 27, lives in Manhattan and said, as a transgender person, she wanted to get the vaccine to be safe since there are still so many questions about transmission.
“I be around town, I be seeing a lot of men,” she said. “You don’t know who’s sleeping with who and things like that so that’s why I wanted to get it.”
Others said they just wanted to be able to enjoy the summer after more than two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artemis Elves, 27, from Manhattan, said many of his friends have been keeping their distance or working from home until they can get vaccinated.
“Now I’m going out more and I’m getting more of a social life. I feel like we just went over like getting COVID. So it’s like, now we have this other thing. I think it’s just one more needle in the arm,” Elves said.
He said he planned to treat himself to lunch after his jab and in a few weeks, or maybe head to the beach in Fire Island.