Out Broadway legend Joey Grey last week got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in New York.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Grey, 88, said that he got the vaccine because he wants “to be safe.”

“We've lost so many people to COVID,” Grey said. “I've lost a few friends. It's heartbreaking. Frightening. Like boxing with the enemy. What's been helping me is a solid belief that there is an end. I want to live. I love life."

"Quarantining has been lonely at times, but somehow you get a night's sleep, wake up and the sun is shining and you see a flower. Life is fragile, but the flower is still here, and I'm still here,” said Grey, who in 2019 released a photo book of flowers titled The Flower Whisperer.

Grey, who came out publicly in 2015, compared the current pandemic to the AIDS crisis. In both cases, New York became an early epicenter.

"I remember during the AIDS crisis, so many people were getting sick and dying quickly. It was terrifying. All these nice people, ordinary folks, suffered and died. Somehow we lived through it. And today people are still loving each other and living,” Grey said.

"We have an unknown source of belief in life and love and humanity that saves us from all quitting. We must not quit. As theater people, one of our aims is to enlighten and tell the story and open a person's heart. Hopefully we can do just that when the theater returns."

"I've been in Manhattan since March. I didn't want to leave. I'm hopeful that somewhere in the darkness there's still a light shining, and I want to be a part of it. As soon as it's safe, I can't wait to have a hamburger and a malt with my dear friends. I'll be there on Feb. 9 for my second shot of the vaccine. It's a good feeling to know you've got the first and you're on your way,” he said.