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COVID Vaccine: Citi Field Mega-Site Opens For Queens Residents, TLC Drivers And Food Workers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- First it was Yankee Stadium, and now the home of the New York Mets has been turned into a COVID-19 vaccination mega-site.

Citi Field opened it doors on Wednesday for eligible Queens residents, but as CBS2's John Dias reported, it didn't take long to run into a similar problem other sites have experienced -- short supply.

As of noon, Citi Field was booked for the day. Many people were desperate to get their shot, coming without an appointment, but their odds of getting one were not good.

Dias saw some people pleading with security guards before being turned away. There were long lines filled with mixed emotions. But for the lucky ones able to score a vaccine appointment, it was a home run.

"I feel very happy," one man said.

Web Extra: Click here to schedule appointment, or call 1-877-VAX-4NYC

But most waiting in line didn't have a guarantee because they didn't have an appointment.


While some left feeling defeated, others were hoping for cancellations so they could step up to the plate, like one Queens man who already had COVID-19, but feared he could get it again.

"I had it very bad and I thought that was my last day already," Dapot Isitmorus said.

He and his wife both qualify, but found it impossible to book an appointment.

"If I have to wait here all day, as long as I hope for the best and we both can get it," Isitmorus said.

One woman who said she has cancer wasn't been able to reserve a spot.

"I try through my primary doctor, I try with my oncologist, everybody said no vaccines," she said.

  • PRESS CONFERENCE: Mayor De Blasio Discusses New Citi Field Mega Vaccination Site --

The 24-hour vaccine mega-hub at Citi Field will operate Wednesdays to Saturdays. It is designated specifically for Queens residents who qualify, plus TLC drivers and food service workers. The Long Island Rail Road will be operating its Mets-Willets Point stop with 24-hour service that will run until the vaccine site closes.

Working behind the counter of a city bodega has come with too many close encounters with a possible COVID infection, says deli worker Tarik Mubarez.

"Having people coming with their money, inventory coming in [from] out of state, just not knowing what I could be in contact with," Mubarez told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Given those risks, he was relieved to finally get his shot. The 27-year-old manager of a deli on Eighth Avenue near Times Square was vaccinated at Citi Field on Wednesday.

"I just feel safer," he said.

Watch Aundrea Cline-Thomas' report --

But many of his colleagues don't realize they are eligible to get it, too.

Youssef Mubarez, of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, has been trying to facilitate appointments for some 15,000 workers; it's been a struggle.

"Language barriers, unable to make appointments because they weren't available, some tech issues," he said. "Undocumented workers, they're worried about signing up for the appointment."

The site at Yankee Stadium opened on Friday with enough supply in the first week for 15,000 doses.

But it was a stark contrast at Citi Field -- only 800 doses, roughly 200 per day, about eight an hour, for a borough of more than 2 million.

"We expect to get some more coming in, but the bottom line is we need to see equity," Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. "We lost 7,000 residents here."

"Shame on them, all of them, all of the politicians. It's ridiculous," resident Bobby Ballis added.

When asked by CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas what he would tell elderly people who are trying to navigate a process that's still very cumbersome, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "We've had some bad situations that are not acceptable, but we've also had some very good situations. We've been adding more and more customer service representatives and will keep doing that. But everything pales in comparison to the supply problem."

Vaccine supply at Citi Field is expected to increase to 4,000 doses next week. That's still far below what is available at the site at the ballpark in the Bronx, which is run by the state.

The state said the de Blasio administration never asked for more shots, but the mayor responded to that by saying, "The state is often not responsive. I mean, that's not a newsflash, and this is why it's time to go back to more local control."

Richards said while the Citi Field site is important, the city and state need to think about adding even more sites across the borough for those who can't easily access Citi Field.

Not long after, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced two new federal-run mega sites serving underserved communities will be opened soon -- York College in Jamaica, Queens and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

This comes as New York State is set to receive another increase in doses from the federal government. This is the third time the Biden administration has upped the number sent to states.

New York currently receives about 300,000 doses each week, with 2.5 million already administered.

Cuomo said the White House is boosting the state's supply by 5%, but New York needs more to meet the demand.

"Over the past three weeks, it has been relatively significant. Again, not proportionate to the need, but that has been helpful," he said. "We now have 10 millions New Yorkers waiting on 300,000 doses."

CBS2's John Dias, Aundrea Cline-Thomas and Jessica Layton contributed to this report

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