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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Getting the vaccine? It doesn’t have to be dull

Vaccines will be available every weekend in May without an appointment at the castle, which says it is “the only castle in all of Transylvania” that fits the description of Dracula’s castle in the novel about the vampire.

By: New York Times |
Updated: May 13, 2021 3:45:23 pm
A COVID-19 vaccination site is set up in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, April 30, 2021. A year after we left parking lots, strip malls, sports arenas and other sites in the United States, scores of them have been requisitioned as temporary vaccine centers. (Sinna Nasseri/The New York Times)

For many Americans, gone are the days of staying up late to constantly refresh government websites or of lingering at pharmacies at closing time for a chance at a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Shots are now available across the United States at walk-up sites, which experts say are critical to helping get more people inoculated.

Even in other parts of the world, like in Europe, where vaccinations are picking up after a slow start, the shots are becoming more available and in more convenient locations.

And the vaccines aren’t being given just at pharmacies and mass-vaccination sites anymore. Making the shots easily accessible and maybe a little fun is crucial to inoculating the people who are open to getting vaccinated but won’t go out of their way to do so, experts say. Here are a few of the unconventional places where you can get a shot.

At Dracula’s house the needles at Bran Castle in the Transylvania region of Romania won’t be drawing blood instead, they’ll be administering a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Vaccines will be available every weekend in May without an appointment at the castle, which says it is “the only castle in all of Transylvania” that fits the description of Dracula’s castle in the novel about the vampire.

People who get vaccines there will get “free access to the exhibition with medieval torture tools,” the castle said on its Facebook page. But venturing to the castle for the shots and scares wouldn’t be wise for international travelers, as the vaccines are available at the castle only to residents of Romania, Bran Castle’s marketing manager, Alexandru Priscu, told The Associated Press.

Amid concerns in Romania that demand for vaccines is slowing, Priscu said, “we wanted to show people a different way to get the needle.”

More than 19% of people in Romania have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. New daily coronavirus cases there have dropped significantly around 1,200 each day on average since spikes in November and March.

At the game fans at the Philadelphia Flyers’ final game of the season, Monday watched the hockey team win by 4-2 over the New Jersey Devils and had the opportunity to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who got shots also received two free tickets for a game next season.

At Seattle Mariners home baseball games, walk-up vaccines are available, administered by emergency medical workers from the Seattle Fire Department. The Seattle Sounders soccer team also offers walk-up appointments at its home games.

At the St. Paul Saints’ home opener Tuesday night in Minnesota, fans of the minor league baseball team got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and vouchers for four tickets to another game.

“It’s a great opportunity to provide a very convenient and, frankly, entertaining opportunity for individuals to get vaccinated in a nontraditional setting,” said Derek Sharrer, the Saints’ general manager. The team hopes to offer vaccinations at Sunday games throughout the summer, he said.

At church twice a week, up to 800 people each day can be vaccinated in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey in London, “in the company of the many writers, actors and other luminaries memorialized” there, the Abbey said.

More than 100 poets and writers are buried or have memorials in Poets’ Corner. David Hoyle, the dean of Westminster, said he was “thrilled that the Abbey, once a place of sanctuary, is now able to send people out in greater safety.”

Even as the vaccine site opened in March, the church remained open for some services. The Abbey is set to reopen for tourists May 21.

The vaccine site is open to people with appointments through the National Health Service and will run until at least the end of June, the Abbey said on its website.

Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England, is also a part of Britain’s vaccination campaign. After getting a shot there, people are serenaded by the church organ as they wait out the 15-minute post-vaccination observation period.

“Oh, I just love the organ,” Margaret Drabble, 83, a former schoolteacher, said as she waited after she got her vaccine. “It’s so beautiful.”

More than half of Britain’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to Our World in Data. After the country was battered by a more contagious variant this winter, cases there have fallen to a daily average of about 2,200.

On the sand in an effort to make getting the vaccine extremely convenient, David Richardson, a Miami Beach city commissioner, set up a pop-up vaccine site on the city’s South Beach this month. “By popular demand,” it was back again the next week, and it will be back on the beach at various locations throughout the month.

“Maybe I could reach people on the beach that would otherwise not be interested in getting a vaccine,” Richardson recalled thinking. On its second day on the beach, the pop-up site ran out of its 125 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses and had 50 more brought out, which it also used up.

Richardson said that posts on social media let Miami Beach residents know where the medical van administering the shots will be, and not unlike a popular food truck people “follow the van.”

But regular beachgoers have also gotten shots at the sites. “We’ve had a few people come in their bathing suit,” Richardson said. “We’ve certainly had more than a few come without a shirt on and hang out.”

Under a whale, or next to a painting, the area under the 94-foot-long model of a blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History is also a New York City walk-up vaccination site. Anyone who gets vaccinated at the site will also receive a voucher for free admission to the museum at a later date.

The spot under the whale which now has a bandage on its side is the city’s “hottest new vax site,” Mark Levine, a City Council member, said in a tweet.

Ellen Futter, the president of the museum, said in April before the site opened: “In years to come I really can imagine this we will look at images of New Yorkers getting vaccinated under the whale, and it will be a snapshot of New York and New Yorkers fighting back, caring for themselves, caring for one another, and of the time when things started to turn for the better.”

Other museums have also gotten into the act. Visitors at the Castello di Rivoli, a contemporary art museum near Turin, Italy, can be vaccinated while surrounded by art, such as a wall painting by a Swiss artist, Claudia Comte.

Comte collaborated with a composer, Egon Elliut, to create a soundscape for people being vaccinated. The music evokes “a dreamlike feeling,” she said.

Unlike sterile pharmacies or desolate abandoned spaces that have been used for inoculations, the museum offers a calming place to get a shot for those who may have been nervous about it.

“The anxiety of getting a vaccination disappeared in these beautiful rooms, surrounded by music,” said Patrizia Savoia, a retiree who lives within walking distance. “It was very relaxing.”

With your skis on Sunday, 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available at the base of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Summit County, Colorado, and appointments or Colorado residency will not be required.

“Hopefully by bringing this vaccine point of distribution to A-Basin, we can help our community continue the progress that we have made to put this challenging year behind us,” said Tony Cammarata, head of the Arapahoe Basin Ski Patrol.

The tent will be set up on the ski area’s “beach,” which in non-pandemic times is a popular tailgating spot. Emergency medical workers from the ski patrol will be on hand, and those who get a shot will get a free drink.

“The least we could do to thank our guests for their contribution,” Cammarata said, was “a bacon Bloody Mary.”

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