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Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Debuts at the Yankee Stadium - Hayley Zhao


The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes its debut at Yankee Stadium tonight. New Yorkers will be rolling up their sleeves for the jab starting at 8 pm. Or will they? Health authorities are hoping the vaccine will be popular because it requires just one shot. But it's a lot less effective: just 72 percent, compared to 94.1 percent for Moderna's two-shot vaccine, and 95 percent for Pfizer's. Hayley Zhao took a ride on the D train, to talk to Bronx residents about the new vaccine, and find out whether its convenience will be enough to convince people it's worth taking.

HAYLEY ZHAO, BYLINE: It’s nine o’clock in the morning but two long lines have already formed outside Yankee Stadium. One is for people scheduled to get their vaccines today. The other is for residents who just want to book an appointment. Like Julian Scwer, a home health aide.

JULIAN SCWER: I'm here for the appointment for the J and J. I don’t care when it starts, just make me an appointment.

ZHAO: Julian has an underlying condition. He has also contracted Covid twice in the last year. Getting the vaccine - any vaccine - as soon as possible is a matter of life and death for him. Which is why he wants the Johnson and Johnson shot.

SCWER: It'll keep you out of the hospital and keep you from dying. The other ones, you have to get a second shot. That's more time. They send you somewhere else three weeks later for the next shot. I want to get it and be done with it.

ZHAO: The J&J vaccine is less effective than its two-dose counterparts, but with vaccine appointments so scarce in the Bronx, many residents say they don’t care. Liza Rodriguez lined up with her mother after coming up empty trying to book an appointment online.

LIZA RODRIGUEZ: Honestly, any vaccine at this moment, anything to get on the list, you know. Any vaccine takes seven years. So all three of them are, you're taking a chance, but better to be safer than sorry, something to protect us.

ZHAO: Franklin Peña, a restaurant worker says the fact that the vaccine is made by an established company like Johnson&Johnson gives him confidence.

FRANKLIN PENA: That company was there a long time ago. Everybody knows the company. All of the product is very good. This is an American company, you know, that's what we need right now.

ZHAO: Betty Blackburn worked at a nursing home for 33 years before she retired. She didn’t get to celebrate her 60th birthday last year due to the outbreak. With her birthday coming up in 2 weeks, she is frustrated that she still can’t have a proper celebration.

BETTY BLACKBURN: I'm going on 61 next week the 17th. It’s too much. I pray every day. I said, Lord, whatever he would be. I be. For me to take a shot. I take it and be done with it. We want to get back to normal again. I just want to be safe with myself and everybody else too.

ZHAO: Mayor Bill De Blasio said he is confident that five million New Yorkers will be vaccinated by June this year. If the rest of the city is as enthusiastic about the J&J vaccine as these Bronx residents, he might just manage to hit that mark.

Hayley Zhao, Columbia Radio News.

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