As of today, all US adults are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But in perhaps even more exciting news, New Yorkers can now get immunized at the American Museum of Natural History beneath the famed blue whale model suspended from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life.
“I would say it’s a whale of an announcement or perhaps we are whale-coming this new site,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference announcing the news. “Literally, you can get vaccinated directly below the blue whale.”
“In years to come… 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,” museum president Ellen Futter added, joining the announcement via Zoom.
The site will be open to all eligible New Yorkers, but some appointments will be reserved for New York City Housing Authority residents and staff, and members of the District Council 37 union, which represents workers at many of the city’s cultural institutions.
“This is an exciting new effort and I guarantee you that a lot of people are going to say ‘that’s where I want to get vaccinated,’” De Blasio said. “If previously you didn’t get vaccinated because it was hard to get an appointment, now it is easy to get an appointment… If you hesitated, now is the time to go out and get vaccinated.”
“This effort is absolutely critical to the health and welfare of our fellow New Yorkers,” Futter said. “This institution is dedicated to fostering scientific knowledge and understanding, and providing access to the public, so I can’t even imagine a more important manifestation of our mission in action.”
The museum did not respond to inquiries from Artnet News about whether museum visitors would still be able to see the whale during vaccination distribution.
The Smithsonian Institution recently acquired the empty vial of the first vaccine administered in the US and other related objects for the collection of the National Museum of American History.
In New York, the natural history museum site will begin accepting appointments tomorrow for dates beginning Friday, April 23, on NYC Vaccine Finder. Anyone who gets a vaccine on site will receive a complimentary general admission voucher for up to four guests.
The 94-foot-long whale was created in the mid-1960s and renovated for anatomical accuracy in 2001. The life-size model of the largest animal ever known to have existed is made from foam and fiberglass and weighs 21,000 pounds. It gets cleaned once a year, a three-day-long bath conducted via an electric lift and industrial vacuum cleaner.
Currently, the massive sculpture is sporting a bandaid above its flipper.
“I want to see the really, really, really big syringe you guys used to vaccinate the whale,” De Blasio joked. But he also recognized the importance of museums and other cultural sites in the city’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic. “When the arts come back, New York City comes back.”