“VACCINE DAY! Step one of the Moderna magic!! One hour drive to STATEN ISLAND worth every minute! It takes a village,” Stacey Griffith, a 52-year-old fitness guru who has been featured in The New York Times, proudly announced in a since-deleted Instagram post on Friday.
But moments after Griffith revealed to her 64,200 followers that she was among the roughly 850,000 New York City residents who had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, she was met with furious backlash.
“My wife is a stage 4 cancer patient who has to deal with the fear and risk of going into a hospital cancer center weekly, while immunosuppressed, during COVID, in order to receive the treatment that is keeping her alive. She is at least 2-3 months out from being eligible for a vaccine,” Gabrielle Novacek, a Chicago-based consultant commented.
“As the caretaker she depends on to provide her with support, I’m at least 4-5 months out. But yes, let’s celebrate that we are making the world safe for in-person spin class in the midst of a global pandemic. What’s left of any respect that I had for Soul and the leaders it celebrates is done and gone,” she added.
Griffith, who nets $800 a class, according to a recent Vox story, claimed via text message that her role as an “educator” made her eligible for the coveted COVID-19 vaccination.
“Having me vaccinated can stop the short spread within groups!” Griffith told The Daily Beast. “I function as a common point for many overlapping people. In my profession of health and wellness as a teacher, it’s my priority daily to keep my community and their respiratory systems operating at full capacity so they can beat this virus if they are infected by it. I can only teach to them if I am healthy myself.”
Griffith added that she “had the same opportunity everyone else has by going online and filling out a questionnaire” and insisted that she pulled “no favors, I paid no money to anyone.”
“All teachers are eligible to apply for the vaccine. My post today was to show my confidence in the system, in our government, and I hope everyone can at least feel more at ease knowing I went through the process!” she added.
Asked if all SoulCycle instructors would be eligible for the vaccine, she replied, “Absolutely not.”
According to the New York City Health Department, the city has entered phase 1B of the vaccination rollout, making health-care workers, residents over 65, grocery store workers, and specific types of teachers eligible for vaccinations. While eligible teachers include those who teach K-12, in-person college instructors, and group child-care providers, the list does not include teachers of fitness crazes.
“Generally speaking, it’s difficult for us to comment on individuals due to confidentiality,” a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Health told The Daily Beast when asked about Griffith’s jab on Friday.
That Griffith got vaccinated in New York while thousands of teachers, social workers, and residents with pre-existing conditions are unable to nab an appointment further illustrates the rocky rollout in the Empire State.
Thousands of New York City teachers who are eligible for the vaccine have reported their appointments were canceled amid supply and scheduling issues. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, told the New York Post this week that about 20,000 teachers had requested appointments through the union—and that another 10,000 had gone through their health-care providers. But only a fourth of those 30,000 teachers had received either vaccine.
One issue, according to Mulgrew, is that the city has been canceling appointments en masse due to vaccination shortages and scheduling problems. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday revealed that Moderna vaccine deliveries had been delayed and that he had asked the federal government for increases in shipments and the ability to use second doses on first shots for new patients.
“We have had to reschedule 23,000 New Yorkers, and tell them that they will not be able to get that appointment due to lack of supply,” de Blasio said.
While this slow rollout may mean many eligible people are stuck on waiting lists, it hasn’t exactly shut the door on young, healthy Americans—many of whom have used their connections and considerable financial resources to cut the line and justify doing it.
“Under Phase 1B, celebrity cycling instructors are ineligible for vaccination,” a spokesperson for the New York City Mayor’s office told The Daily Beast.
A SoulCycle spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “Stacey Griffith operated in a personal capacity in applying for a NY State COVID-19 vaccine. SoulCycle plays no role in organizing or obtaining vaccinations for instructors or other employees nor do we encourage any of our SoulCycle employees to seek vaccine priority as educators.”
As a SoulCycle Founding Senior Master Instructor, Griffith was—at least before the pandemic—teaching over a dozen spin classes across New York City. In a 2017 Times profile, the 52-year-old said that in addition to her classes—which sometimes feature A-listers like Kelly Rippa—she had a fitness inspiration book titled Two Turns From Zero. Her website also boasts that she is the co-host of the podcast “TheWayNYC” and was a motivator on Oprah Winfrey’s 2014 Life You Want tour.
On Friday afternoon, Griffith said she deleted her vaccine flex post when the vitriol became overwhelming.
“I hate controversy,” she told The Daily Beast, adding, “It saddens me that people go so dark and mean, I’m really just trying to do the right thing and be safe.”