“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,” she told the publication. “I can only teach to them if I am healthy myself.”
But after boasting on Instagram that she had received “step one of the Moderna magic,” the fitness coach faced an outpouring of criticism from her own fans and even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). On Monday, Griffith apologized for a “terrible error in judgment.”
Many balked at the news that a seemingly young and fit spin instructor who reportedly earns a minimum of $800 per class could cut the vaccination line, ahead of many essential workers and vulnerable New Yorkers who may have to wait months. Critics vented frustration on Griffith’s post and shared stories of high-risk family members who cannot yet be vaccinated, including a woman who said her wife is sick with cancer and will not be able to get the vaccine for months.
Griffith did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Monday. Meanwhile, SoulCycle distanced itself from Griffith’s choice, Vox reported.
“Stacey Griffith operated in a personal capacity in applying for a NY State COVID-19 vaccine,” the company said in a statement to Vox on Monday. “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.”
De Blasio on Sunday said he did not think fitness instructors should qualify for vaccines at the same time as schoolteachers, who have been at the center of a heated debate as the city has repeatedly reckoned with whether to reopen schools during the pandemic.
“It doesn’t sound like someone who should’ve gotten vaccinated to me,” de Blasio said at a news conference on Sunday. “I don’t think someone who shows up and says, ‘Hey, I’m a SoulCycle instructor’ should have qualified unless there’s some other factor there. That should have been caught in the application process.”
Griffith gained her following after getting an early start with SoulCycle and cultivating a celebrity-filled clientele. She racked up more than 64,000 followers on Instagram and even rated a feature in the New York Times Fashion section in 2017.
It is unclear how Griffith managed to get a vaccine under the New York City guidelines. Since Jan. 11, staff and faculty who work with preschool through 12th grade students and in-person college instructors have been able to get vaccines. Some other groups also gained access last month, including adults over 65, grocery store workers, corrections officers, public transit operators, homeless residents and shelter staff, and some other essential workers. Those guidelines do not mention gym employees or fitness instructors.
Although schoolteachers are supposed to have access to the vaccine, many have struggled to come by appointments. The New York Post reported last week that Michael Mulgrew, chief of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s primary teachers union, said thousands of eligible educators had their appointments canceled after supplies ran low at vaccination sites across the city.
At least 1,511,266 people across New York have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, about 7.8 percent of the state’s population. More than 344,300 New York residents have been fully vaccinated thus far.
As criticism mounted this weekend, Griffith initially defended her decision to seek early access to the vaccine, insisting she had the same chance as any New York teacher to apply.
“All teachers are eligible to apply for the vaccine,” she told the Daily Beast on Friday. “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!”
But on Monday, Griffith changed her tune, posting a public apology on her Instagram page.
“I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for my recent action in receiving the vaccine,” Griffith wrote. “I made a terrible error in judgment and for that I am truly sorry.”