I just received my first dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Read on to learn more about my experience!

The first few days after I was able to reserve an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine were filled with excitement. My long-standing battle with my weight had finally paid off (hooray for my BMI making me eligible), and I would soon be doing my part to keep my community safe. Those feelings ended about two days before the actual appointment, when I went online to find the address of the Javits Center and was met with countless news articles about people’s vaccine experiences from the days prior. I couldn’t stop reading, my mind filled with quotes about lack of organization, people fainting in line, four-hour waits, and freezing temperatures. I started to panic, thinking about how few times I had been in public in the past year, let alone surrounded by hundreds of people (including the National Guard). As my social anxiety began to rear its head, I genuinely thought about canceling my appointment. I am happy to say that I faced my fear and have now received my first vaccine dose, and I’m here to provide you with some (hopefully) helpful information and tips!

When I arrived at the Javits Center, the line of people waiting to be vaccinated wrapped around the block. It certainly looked intimidating at first, but this outdoor line moved really quickly. I would definitely recommend checking the weather before you show up and bringing gloves, a jacket, and anything else you might want to have with you if you’re waiting outside for a long time. This was the most confusing and chaotic part of my vaccine journey, as there were only one or two National Guard members pointing people in the right direction, and there was no formally outlined line to follow.

Once I got inside the building, the line continued to move at a steady pace. There were markers on the floor indicating where people should stand to maintain a six-foot distance between one another, and announcements came from a speaker system every few minutes, reminding us that it was mandatory to have an appointment to get the vaccine and that we should go home if we were feeling sick. This section of the line was pretty short, leading to a checkpoint where someone looked at my appointment confirmation and my driver’s license. Many of the people around me were carrying folders with documents, but I had my appointment confirmation on my phone and didn’t have any issues.

After the first checkpoint, the line continued to wind around the Javits Center. We moved forward every minute or two, with volunteers occasionally positioned along the path to answer questions and guide us forward. All of this took place in the center’s huge lobby, a light area with windows all around. At this point, I had been at the Javits Center for about 45 minutes.

As the line moved slowly but steadily forward, we wound our way into a more densely packed room. There were no windows in this room, and it reminded me of a large parking garage. The line of people zig-zagged across the room over and over, probably between ten and 20 times. At this point, there was nothing left to do but wait. I would definitely recommend bringing earphones to listen to music or a podcast during the wait. You could also bring a book or use your phone for entertainment, but the line moves pretty consistently and it might get annoying to have to look up from what you’re doing so frequently. There was a table with plastic water bottles towards the end of this line, but about 45 minutes to an hour had passed by before I reached this table, so I would recommend bringing your own water and/or snacks. I was unsure about water-drinking mask etiquette, so I tried to keep my drinking to a minimum to ensure that my mask was fully covering my mouth and nose as often as possible. This brings me to another problem: I am genuinely not sure what someone would do if they had to go to the bathroom. At this point, I had been in line for about two hours, and I had yet to see anyone leave the line. I would imagine you could try to get the attention of one of the volunteers or National Guard members, but I did my best to limit my water intake to avoid this problem.

Finally, I reached the end of the line and was ushered into another part of the gigantic room, this one filled with tables and medical workers. A National Guard member directed me to a specific table (each table had a number hanging above it for easy directions), and I sat down. The worker asked me for my insurance information, my driver’s license, my appointment confirmation, and the confirmation that I had completed the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Form (which was automatically sent to me after I scheduled my appointment). She asked me a few questions about how I was feeling, whether I had had a COVID test recently, whether I had received any other vaccines in the past 14 days, and other similar questions. She then pointed me toward a new line.

As I approached this new line, a National Guard member smiled at me and told me that I was almost at the end of the process. Despite the slight pain in my feet, I was excited to be nearing the finish line. This final line took about 20 minutes, at the end of which I was directed to one of the many tables that had been lined up around the room. After I sat down at the table, an assistant took my name, looked at my forms, and asked me to confirm some of my information. Next, the medical professional administered the shot, and I was done! The needle looked a lot scarier than it actually was, and I didn’t feel more than a little pinch. I was handed a little paper card with the date of my first vaccination and told that I should come back three weeks later to receive the second dose. Then, I was directed to another waiting area filled with rows of folding chairs.

This new area was the observation area, where National Guard members watched us for 15 minutes to make sure that no one had any adverse reactions to the vaccine. The seats were spaced six feet apart, but I chatted a bit with the people on either side of me, and we did some arm exercises together to try to offset any soreness at the injection site. After 15 minutes, we were told that we were finally done and were free to leave!

In total, I spent about three hours at the Javits Center. Yes, the lines were long, but the whole experience was extremely well-organized. Throughout the process, the National Guard members, medical professionals, and volunteers were cheerful, warm, and helpful. I barely felt any pain or soreness after receiving my vaccine, and I have not experienced any other noticeable side effects since then. My top recommendations are to make sure you have enough clothing or accessories to stay warm during the time outside, but remember that you’re going to have to carry whatever you bring with you for the next few hours. Have any documents, confirmations, and forms saved in one place, printed out or on your phone, for easy access. Make sure your phone is charged, and bring something to keep yourself busy in the long lines. It also doesn’t hurt to make friendly conversation with your line neighbors, as you’ll be spending plenty of time just a few feet away from them.

Stay safe, and happy vaccinations!

Javits Center Photo via Wikimedia Commons