KEARNY, NJ - Getting your vaccination at the Hudson County site in Kearny is a cross between going to the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 and getting inducted for military service.
While the lines of cars did not close down the New York Thruway as the music festival once did, people came early and stayed late, backing up along Hackensack Avenue as well as a portion Route 1 & 9 truck route from Route 440 and Comunipaw Avenue in Jersey City.
Although those eligible to get the vaccine needed to register online and make an appointment, the lines, while organized, were still long.
Once allowed onto the site, lines of cars completely circled a large warehouse building, and then were directed to the pull-in vaccination center where an army of nurses waited to administer the doses. As with induction into military services, people were asked to roll up their sleeves to get the first of two inoculations that will eventually make them immune to COVID-19.
“This is the best vaccination operation in the state,” said Mickey McCabe, founder of McCabe Ambulance service – one of many medical professionals on site to deal with potential side effects.
This may be one of the reasons why on Tuesday morning, Governor Phil Murphy, U.S. Representatives Albio Sires and Bill Pascrell, and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli joined County Executive Tom DeGise at the Hudson County Vaccine Distribution Center to provide local, state, and federal updates on efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals.
During the visit lawmakers met with Hudson County residents as they received their first doses of the vaccine at the USS Juneau Center. One of New Jersey's two mega COVID vaccination sites, public officials came to visit to see how the operation was going and what issues it faced.
The state hopes to vaccinate 70 percent of its adult population in the next six months, and this site will be a key part of attaining that goal, officials have said.
“Today Gov. Murphy, Rep. Sires and I stopped by the vaccination site in Kearny to thank our frontline heroes and make clear we won’t let up one iota until everyone can get a vaccine,” said Pascrell.
“Over the past 10 months, Hudson County has worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe during these unprecedented times, from providing a robust COVID-19 testing program to being the first County in New Jersey to open a public vaccination center,” said DeGise. “Our efforts will not conclude until every resident has access to this lifesaving vaccine, and we will continue to direct all resources at our disposal to our vaccination center to administer every dose we receive in an expedited manner.”
DeGise said the biggest issue is the lack of doses.
As of Monday, 5,671 first doses and 152 second doses of the vaccine have been administered at the county-run site in Kearny. An additional 305 individuals are scheduled to be vaccinated today. The vaccination center is overseen by County Executive DeGise’s Vaccine Task Force and operated by Hudson Regional Health Commission. Hudson County received 3,500 vaccines this week that will be administered at the county facility and local municipal sites. The Hudson County Vaccine Distribution Center was allocated 1,300 of this week’s doses and currently has the capacity to administer up to 1,200 doses per day when sufficient supply is made available.
“But we could be giving out 4,000 and more if we had them available,” DeGise said, adding that he received no promises about future supply.
“I would rather have him say `I don’t know,’ than to make promises he can’t deliver,” DeGise said. “He told us we’ll get them when he gets them. Then we can distribute. Some of the mayors are frustrated. I don’t know what to tell them other than that.”
DeGise said lack of doses kept the Meadowlands supersite from opening, which could have handled some of the vaccinations for people in Secaucus and North Hudson.
“As we have said many times before, we know that there is far more demand for vaccines at this moment than we have actual supply of doses available to us,” said Gov. Murphy prior to his visit to Kearny. “We continue to ensure an equitable distribution across our state and to ensure that in addition to our frontline healthcare workers and first responders, that those residents at highest risk, whether due to age or medical history and condition or both, are vaccinated first.”
Murphy, like the other leaders touring the facility, asked the public to be patient while awaiting more vaccine doses to come into the state.
“We have built the infrastructure from the ground up,” Murphy said. “All we need are these doses and we will be able to fire on all cylinders. We will get there. There's no question about that. It won't be tomorrow or probably not next week, but we will get there and everyone who wants to be as we have said many times before, we know that there is far more demand for vaccines at this moment than we have actual supply of doses available to us. We continue to ensure an equitable distribution across our state and to ensure that in addition to our frontline healthcare workers and first responders, that those residents at highest risk, whether due to age or medical history and condition or both, are vaccinated first.”
The event was less a press conference than a walk through as Murphy and other public officials greeted the staff as well as those people getting vaccinated.
“I spoke for a while with Albio about the issues we face,” DeGise said. “The governor and others seemed impressed and got to talk to people from Hudson Regional Health Commission, who are running it. We talked about whatever problems we were having. The lack of doses is very frustrating.”
DeGise said the doses have to be directed to the states by the federal government, and then the states delivers them to counties, and the county then distributes them locally.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus has remained on securing the necessary resources and funding for our communities to locally address the pandemic,” said Congressman Sires.
“County Executive Tom DeGise has done a tremendous job in providing for Hudson County during these difficult times and we will continue to fight in Washington for additional vaccinations until they are in the arms of every American.”
Another significant issue has to do with the location of the center, DeGise said.
While the sheriff’s officers and others handled the volume competently, people had to drive to the site and have the does administered in their cars.
“There’s a bus that stops at Hackensack Avenue and $1 & 9, but it is a very, very long walk to the center from there,” he said.
Individuals who qualify to be vaccinated during Phase 1A should contact the Hudson Regional Health Commission to schedule an appointment at the Hudson County’s Vaccine Distribution Center.
The Hudson Regional Health Commission can be reached at (201) 223-1133.
Sign up for TAPinto E-News alerts to be the first to read about all things Jersey City!
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.