LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise within the Livingston community—with 28 new cases reported over the weekend for a total of 97 in the first 11 days of January—so does the number of residents becoming eligible to receive the vaccination.
Ahead of a virtual COVID-19 vaccine information forum that the township is sponsoring alongside panelists from Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), the Livingston Health Department and Essex County on Jan. 14, Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein, a local ophthalmologist, volunteered at the Essex County Vaccination Center located at the Livingston Mall this weekend to help distribute vaccinations to fellow medical professionals and to show his support for the available vaccines.
“This is the major issue of the day, and I think it’s important for people who have a medical background to volunteer in these situations,” he said. “That's why I did it, but I also felt that it was particularly important because I'm a mayor and I need people need to understand that the vaccines safe and that when it becomes available to them, it's really important that we all get it.”
After receiving his first of two doses a few weeks ago, Klein said he had “a pretty beat up arm, some chills and a headache for a day,” but reiterated that these side effects are a good sign, as it demonstrates that the body is “creating inflammation in response to the vaccine.”
“The vaccine needs to create a certain amount of inflammation in order for your body to create the antibodies that you're going to need to fight the real virus if it should come along,” said Klein. “I always remind people that you should be glad if it hurts, to embrace the chills and the flu-ish symptoms and to not take Advil or Tylenol because if you are taking medicine to decrease the inflammation in your body, then you are theoretically making the vaccine less effective.”
He also reminded those registering for their first dose that it is crucial for them to attend their scheduled appointment for the second dose.
“When the Moderna and Pfizer studies were originally done, they tried to see if one dose was sufficient, and it's not; so you're not getting the protection that you want if you don't go back and get that second dose,” he said. “After getting the first dose and being given a date to come back, I think at that point, people have a moral responsibility to come back for that second dose. If you're not getting that second dose, theoretically, you're starting back from zero and taking doses away from other people who need it.”
As a medical professional who has not only received the vaccine but has also inoculated others in his community, Klein was enthusiastic about the reactions of those who have chosen to receive the vaccine.
“Everyone that was coming in to get vaccinated was so happy to be there,” he said of his five-hour experience at the Livingston Mall distribution center this weekend. “There were people who were a little nervous because they were getting a needle, but they were so relieved to be able to get it. You could just see a sort of weight getting lifted off their chest as they were walking out after having it done.
"People are really appreciative of the chance to have a vaccine and a chance to stop being worried that they're going to get COVID. They still have to come back for the second vaccine, but there's just a palpable sense of relief that you can see in people's eyes, and it's really rewarding as a caregiver to give that to people.”
Although he was the only Livingston Township Council able to volunteer for inoculation due to his profession, Klein credited the entire governing body—and specifically outgoing mayor Rudy Fernandez—for being instrumental in bringing one of Essex County’s five distribution sites to Livingston.
“The entire town council has stressed the importance of communicating about COVID and has worked in lock-step with the county to move things forward,” said Klein. “Outgoing mayor Rudy Fernandez was instrumental in helping to set up the Livingston Sears as one of the county's primary vaccination sites."
According to Fernandez, who worked closely with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo toward the end of the year to expedite the program, the location of the distribution center will be beneficial to the owners of Sears and the Livingston Mall in addition to the community members who will now be immune to the virus as a result.
The township-sponsored panel discussion will be held on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m., during which panelists such as SBMC Infectious Disease Chief Dr. Lincoln Miller, Essex County Health Officer Maya Lordo and other health and government officials will discuss need-to-know topics and field questions from members of the public.
According to the township, there will be a coordinated effort to ensure public participation in the panel discussion. This meeting is being held for informational purposes only, and no formal action will be taken.
The public is invited to view the panel discussion live on the Livingston Township, NJ Facebook page or participate in the discussion either telephonically or via Zoom using the information provided below.
Jan. 14 Panel Discussion Zoom Link:
Webinar ID: 858 5064 8263
Jan. 14 Panel Discussion Dial-In Numbers:
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