BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - We understand the frustration many residents are feeling as those who are eligible to now get COVID19 vaccines have a difficult time making appointments. The problem of an overwhelmed system is not singular to Union County; towns all over the state are experiencing great challenges keeping up with the demand after Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced that residents aged 65 and older, along with those ages 16-64 who have certain chronic conditions, could start getting vaccinated.
“We have received your calls, emails and Facebook messages and are trying to promptly respond to all of them to help you through this trying time,” said Mayor Angie Devanney. “Please know that I am committed to helping our community’s most vulnerable to this virus get this life-saving vaccination. We are doing everything we can in this constantly-evolving situation.”
The state anticipated this “supply-demand imbalance;” 160 vaccination centers were up and running as of January 13 – 6 of them “mega sites” - when Murphy made his announcement. The state plans to have 260 total, but keeping up with demand of over 1.47 million people so quickly simply has not been possible. The mega-sites include: New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison, as well as sites in Bergen, Morris, Gloucester, Burlington and Atlantic counties.
The Township has received many calls and questions about the process and how residents can make appointments after being locked out of the County site and Summit Medical.
Here is what we know now, and what may be coming in the near future:
- Union County currently has a large vaccination (and testing) site at Kean University. They are looking to expand the hours and days they are offering vaccinations. We will provide more information to residents as we receive it.
- The County registration system at ucnjvaccine.org was full the day after the site went live; the County encourages everyone to continue checking the website for updates as they open up more dates and times for residents. Additional information is available at https://ucnj.org/
- Those currently eligible to receive the vaccination are ONLY: individuals ages 65 and older, persons 18-64 with high-risk medical conditions, uniformed police officers, firefighters, health care workers and others identified in Group 1A. To speak to an operator, please contact the Union County COVID Call Center at 908-518-4307.
- The registration system will only log those who are eligible to receive the vaccination at this time. Those who are ineligible to receive vaccinations will not be allowed to pre-register, and must wait until they are eligible.
- The County is offering the Moderna vaccine.
- There are other locations in Union County offering the vaccine:
- The New Jersey Vaccination Scheduling System (NJVV) allows residents to pre-register them for the vaccine after answering a series of questions such as name, address, contact information, industry and if you have any preexisting conditions. Residents should start receiving notification via email about scheduling an appointment on that NJVSS when they are eligible. The email should tell you that it’s time to make an appointment at a site near you to get your first vaccine dose. As of Wednesday, more than 1.2 million people have already preregistered.
- The Township is trying to get more information on a possible second vaccination site planned for the West Side of the county to alleviate some of the stress on the Kean site.
- There are also plans for a mobile vaccination system in the County; the state has confirmed this is an option going forward. This will allow the vaccine to get to more residents, particularly older residents and those who cannot drive.
- County officials hope to double the amount of vaccinations being administered as soon as possible.
Summit Medical Group Update:
Summit Medical also has put a hold on taking more appointments for their patients. “We are working hard to secure more vaccine doses and expect that supplies will increase in the weeks and months ahead,” they said in an email to patients. “We encourage you to check the website frequently for updates.”
SMG asks their patients to follow these guidelines:
- Please do not call to schedule a vaccination
- Please do not walk in to your doctor’s office or a SMG urgent care to schedule a vaccination
- Please do not send a patient portal message to your doctor to schedule a vaccination
“The volume of appointment requests via phone and through our patient portal is limiting our ability to care for patients who need both sick and well visits. We will contact eligible patients as soon as we are able to vaccinate you.”
Hundreds of thousands of vaccines are expected to be delivered to New Jersey from the federal government over the coming weeks, but it continues to fall short of the substantial demand after eligibility was expanded this week, state health officials said Friday.
The state is expected to get about 100,000 doses a week, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. But the state has the capacity and the demand to administer up to 470,000 doses, she said. More than 1.5 million people have registered to receive the vaccine and more than 310,000 doses have been administered.
In Berkeley Heights:
If you are a senior citizen who does not have access to a computer or the Internet, please ask a son or daughter, friend or neighbor to help you with the registration process, which is currently online only.
If you do not have someone to help you, the Township is working on a system to help register our seniors who are unable to register on their own:
- Our Office of Emergency Management Coordinator or Deputy will drop off registration forms at Park Edge for residents who do not have computer access to fill out. OEM will collect those forms a few days later (to be coordinated with Park Edge representatives).
- Volunteers will take those forms and register those seniors online, then contact those seniors with their vaccination date and time.
- We are exploring setting up a vaccine hotline at Town Hall where residents who cannot register online can leave their information and be registered in the County system by volunteers.
- We are exploring ways to help seniors get to the vaccination site at Kean – whether that be by use of the senior bus or other means.
Today’s BH Case Numbers:
- 3 new community cases
- 69 active cases
- 4 Vulnerable Population Institute (VPI) cases (1 case from 1/09 is from Autumn Lake)
3 New Cases:
1. Male 50s
2. Male 13-19 yrs
3. Female 13-19 yrs
For a Total of 832
Year to Date:
- 6 cases year-to-date removed from total case count, out of jurisdiction.
- 60 long-term care facility (LTC) deaths
- 7 BH resident deaths
- 168 recovered LTCs/VPIs
“I have heard your frustration and sympathize with those having a difficult, if not impossible, time getting an appointment for a vaccine,” said Mayor Devanney. “We ask all residents to be patient as the vaccine deployment infrastructure becomes larger and stronger to handle the influx in demand. We are doing everything we can to make the process easier.”