NEWARK, NJ — A day after Gov. Phil Murphy addressed his plan to provide equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to New Jersey’s minority communities, Essex County officials announced the formation of a partnership with local religious leaders to springboard this effort. 

County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., said at Tuesday press conference in Newark's Essex County College that a partnership with urban clergy members is intended to encourage residents in Black and brown communities to receive vaccinations. At Murphy's Tuesday briefing, he commented that efforts for distribution and inclusionary access to New Jersey’s minority communities are “far from where it needs to be.”

The county opened its initial vaccination sites in December 2020, and was the first county in the state to open vaccination sites. Following DiVincenzo’s announcement, ministers from religious organizations in Newark, East Orange and Bloomfield, including Rev. Joe Carter of Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, received their first dose of the vaccination.

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“I am proud to be part of this so we can fight the skepticism people have about getting the vaccine,” Carter said. “The more local we can get this discussion, the more local we can get the synergy is how we are going to make this happen.” 

Also scheduled to receive vaccinations were Rev. Dr. Joseph Hooper and Theresa Hooper from St. Luke AME Church in Newark, Rev. Dr. Kimberly Credit from Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church in Newark, Ruling Elder Warren McNeil from the Newark Presbytery and Rev. Margo Barnes from New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

“I saw the devastation this virus had on our community,” Newark Beth Israel Medical Center CEO Darrell Terry said. “Getting the vaccine is the right thing for me and my family and the community.” 

The county’s plan follows in line with the governor’s aim to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine through means of temporarily designating local houses of faith and community health buildings as vaccination centers for residents. DiVincenzo explained that a joint effort with local religious leaders has the potential to provide a sense of safety in the vaccination for residents.

“We want to make sure that anyone who wants to take the vaccine has access to it when their turn is called,” he said. “People hold their religious leaders in high regard and often turn to their faith leaders for direction when they have concerns about things happening in their communities. 

“Our efforts will only be successful if at least 70% of the population receives the vaccination and herd immunity is developed,” he added.

As of Feb. 9, county officials reported to have administered 47,533 first doses and 10,840 second doses of the vaccine - totaling 58,373 doses. Officials also reported two new deaths (both Newark residents); and 2,319 total deaths. Newark reported 103 new cases between Monday and Tuesday.

Essex County is operating five vaccination centers. The locations and the municipalities served at each site are as follows:

  • Essex County College, 303 University Ave., Newark (Gym entrance on West Market Street): Newark, Belleville, East Orange, Irvington and Orange.

  • Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology, 498-544 West Market Street, Newark: Newark, East Orange, Irvington and Orange. (This site will open in January 2021)

  • Former Kmart building, 235 Prospect Ave., West Orange: West Orange, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Montclair, Newark, Nutley and Verona.

  • Livingston Mall, former Sears building, 112 Eisenhower Parkway, Livingston (Entrance is in the back): Livingston, Belleville, Maplewood, Millburn, Newark, Orange and South Orange.

  • Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology, 620 Passaic Ave., West Caldwell: West Caldwell, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Newark, North Caldwell and Roseland.

Residents of Newark will be able to make an appointment at any of the five sites because of the size of the city’s population.

Residents can make appointments at or by calling 973-877-8456.