Rumors of surplus doses cause chaos at COVID-19 vaccination site

By WCBS Newsradio 880

A false online rumor of available COVID-19 vaccine doses caused chaos at a mass vaccination site in New York City on Thursday evening.

There was a mad dash on the 24/7 vaccination site at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park sparked by a hoax on Twitter that claimed the center had hundreds of extra doses to give away to the general public.

The messages claimed all adults were welcome, with or without an appointment.

Crowds of people lined the sidewalks and cars jammed the surrounding streets, prompting police and city workers to come to the site to tell people that the rumors weren't true. They reminded people that vaccinations are appointment-only, and only open to those who are eligible under state guidelines.

Mayoral spokesman Bill Neidhardt took to Twitter to clear up the confusion saying, "There is NOT available vaccine for people without appointments. This was misinformation and the notification did not come from the NYC gov."

It was quiet overnight at the site and on Friday morning, at least three people with appointments were turned away at the gate.

"I'm not administering any vaccination today," said a man at the gate, which has since been shut and padlocked.

Teacher John Christiansen was among those turned away, but didn't seem phased by having to go back online to make another appointment.

"It had to be rescheduled cause there was some sort of mess last night. I saw it here on Twitter that people showed up thinking there was unused vaccine instead of making an appointment," Christiansen said. "I'll double check and see. You just gotta wait it out. Patience is what everybody needs."

Robert Rangford, also a teacher, said registering for an appointment online was impossible.

"It's like getting to see 'Hamilton' for free or something. I mean one in a million you'll get in," he said.

Another person messaged WCBS 880's Marla Diamond that his brother's appointment for Friday was rescheduled for February.

Meanwhile, some city hospitals are also starting to run out of vaccine. Mount Sinai Hospital has canceled appointments through Tuesday due to a supply issue.

There are roughly 7 million people in the state who can now receive the shot after New York this week expanded the eligibility pool.

Groups 1A and 1B are eligible to get the shot, which includes all frontline healthcare workers, essential workers — including police officers, firefighters, teachers — and adults over the age of 65.

The governor has said the federal government is supplying the state with 300,000 doses per week.

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