Cries of joy at US stadium turned Covid vaccination center

Robin LEGRAND and Camille CAMDESSUS
·3-min read

At an American football stadium turned into a Covid-19 vaccination center, a woman is positively giddy after getting her first shot.

"I feel overjoyed," Liana Loewus said as she stood next to a sign reading "Today we are offering Pfizer" and hundreds of people waited in line, as she did, outside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Loewus said she has not felt this happy in many months. "It's been a year waiting for this moment," the 38-year-old told AFP.

The 70,000 seat stadium is one of many makeshift vaccination centers hastily set up to try to meet President Joe Biden's new goal of 200 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, double his previous objective.

At the B

altimore arena, soldiers carefully oversee the operation, pointing people in the right direction as they queue up in the hallways of a stadium whose stands have been empty for months.

After registering and riding an escalator up to a different level, people proceed to small individual tables. With hardly time to take a selfie, they show their ID and are jabbed in the arm with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

- 'It hit home' -

But there is a sense of history being made, and emotions are riding high. One nurse said she saw a young woman burst into tears after getting her shot. The pandemic has killed more than 546,000 people in the US, making it the hardest hit country anywhere in the world.

"It's the beginning of the train. It's 'all aboard,' people," said Sergeant David Yarborough, 56, who is supervising the affair and has seen many expressions of raw emotion as people get their shots.

He said it is all the more moving for him because last year he felt powerless as he was stationed in Afghanistan while his fiancee became seriously ill with the coronavirus.

"That's when it hit home", said Yarborough, who is a Baltimore native and works as a chaplain in the US Air Force.

Once people are vaccinated -- and rewarded with a sticker stating as much -- they wait in another hall for 15 minutes of observation in case they have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

When that is over, cries of joy echo through the stadium. Some people call their loved ones to share the good news.

Outside, the crowd disperses as the newly vaccinated go back to work or take kids to school. They are clearly happy, like one man who jumped for joy, raised his fists into the air and hugged a woman waiting for him.

But Katherine Phillips, a 58-year-old resident of Baltimore, said getting the vaccine does not mean the end of the pandemic, during which she has observed a strict lockdown with her daughter.

Phillips tears up as she speaks.

The nightmare will be over, she said, "when I'm able to see my brother again. I haven't seen him in a year, although he lives in the same city."

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