BROOKLYN, NY — New Yorkers crowded the Brooklyn Army Terminal on Thursday night after a fake post circulating on social media claimed there were hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses up for grabs.
Hundreds of people showed up at the Brooklyn site, which opened as a vaccine distribution hub this week, after a post spread on WhatsApp and Facebook that falsely claimed the facility was taking walk-ins for more than 400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mayoral spokesperson Bill Neidhardt said vaccines were only available to New Yorkers with appointments and that authorities were on scene to disperse the crowds.
"There is NOT available vaccine for people without appointments," Neidhardt tweeted. "This was misinformation and the notification did not come from the NYC gov. We are sending people to Brooklyn Army Terminal to ask people in line to return home if they don't have appointments."
After word started to spread of 400+ surplus vaccine shots in Brooklyn—passed on by WhatsApp messages and screenshots—this is what *part* of the scene looks like right now pic.twitter.com/cndF7r5zzc
— Stephen Lurie (@luriethereal) January 14, 2021
The post, which Neidhardt said was distributed on Facebook after first appearing on the messaging service WhatsApp, claimed that more than 410 doses were due to expire by 7 p.m. Thursday and would be given out to anyone in the community 18 and up.
There is NOT available vaccine for people without appointments. This was misinformation and the notification did not come from the NYC gov.We are sending people to Brooklyn Army Terminal to ask people in line to return home if they don't have appointments. https://t.co/eL8PnEd8Z3
— Bill Neidhardt (@BNeidhardt) January 14, 2021
While city officials said vaccines were not available to those without appointments, some who were at the Brooklyn Army Terminal claimed on social media that staff were directing some to a "walk-in line" and that a certain amount had been available.
One video from the scene shows a doctor seeming to explain that there were a certain amount available for walk-ins, but that the facility was now working to add extra appointment slots instead.
"We are adding more appointments," the doctor says. "...Today was an exception…unfortunately we’re not able to offer walk-ins anymore."
It is not clear whether anyone received a vaccine without first making an appointment.
The Brooklyn debacle was not the first time confusion ensued about what to do should there be extra vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and New York State all have their own policies about what to do with extra doses, which only have a shelf life of a few hours.
Just this week, a New York Post reporter at a Brooklyn clinic for a coronavirus test was given a vaccine simply because they were there when the facility was about to close and the intended recipient had missed their appointment.
State health officials told the reporter, who wrote about her experience, that vaccine providers are meant to keep "a daily list of ‘stand by’ eligible individuals to be notified of open appointments for vaccine administration on short notice,” not give them out randomly.
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