UNION COUNTY, NJ — With eligibility expanded to anyone 16 and older starting Monday, the state inched closer to its goal of getting 70% of New Jersey’s eligible adults vaccinated — that is 4.7 million people — by the beginning of the summer.

The number of people statewide vaccinated with at least one dose rose to just over 3.8 million with just over 2.5 million, or 28.2% of people, fully vaccinated, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

In Union County, the number of people vaccinated with at least one dose rose to 220,708 with 132,303 people, or 23.7% of residents, fully vaccinated as of Monday, the state data show.

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Are you still looking for a vaccine? You’ll want to read this.

Who is eligible? Starting Monday, April 19, vaccine eligibility opened to anyone 16 and up.

How do I get help by telephone? You can access the state's hotline at 855-568-0545 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The call center — staffed with both English and Spanish-speakers — can handle over 240 different languages, state health officials said.

The state has also established a hotline specifically for seniors. Individuals aged 65 and older can call a special senior hotline at 856-249-7007 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for vaccination scheduling support. The state Health Department says dedicated appointment slots are reserved for those aged 65 and older. Appointment availability and scheduling varies by location.

How do I schedule shots online? Vaccines are being offered at a series of state, federal, county and private sites. In Union County, the state’s website listed 41 sites offering the vaccine as of Monday.

Can Twitter bots help me find a Vaccine Shot? Yes. The following accounts are among the Twitter bots available to help you find COVID-19 vaccine shots in the region. Click the bell icon on the Twitter account page to have the bots that you want to notify you when new appointments are posted.

@UCNJ_VaccineBot
@nj_vaccine
@NjVaccineFinder
@C19VaxxUpdates
@NJCVSCovidVax

Can seniors in Union County call someone for help? Union County government has set up a vaccine hotline tailored to assist the following residents within the county:

  • Seniors over 65 years of age.
  • Those in the 18-64 age range with qualifying medical conditions who may lack internet access.
  • Residents who need assistance in Spanish.
  • Residents who may need assistance with transportation to and from vaccination sites.

The county’s hotline number is 908-613-7VAX (7829), and the hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

What is the best vaccine to get? Due to limited supplies, health officials recommend taking the first vaccine you can get. “All the vaccines offer protections, and you should take the one that’s available at the site that you’re registered at,” said Ellen Shelley, the vulnerable populations outreach coordinator at the Westfield Regional Health Department, during a recent forum on the COVID-19 vaccine.

What about scheduling multiple appointments? Dr. Tina Sabharwal, medical director at the Atlantic Health Urgent Care Center in Clark, said that people can register as many places as they want for the vaccine, but to be mindful of the appointments they make. “If you are going to register on multiple sites just keep track of any appointments you have made and cancel appropriately,” Sabharwal said.

Can the vaccine give you COVID-19? No. The vaccines cannot cause infection with COVID-19, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. In fact, the two vaccines being administering in New Jersey cannot infect you at all, Persichilli said. The current vaccines do not contain any live virus or attenuated virus, she said.

What side effects should be expected? Side effects can include pain and swelling on the arm where you get the shot, in addition to fever, chills tiredness and headaches, according to the CDC. These are normal signs that your body is building protection against the virus, the CDC says.

Will the vaccines work against the new variants? In most cases, yes, they have been found to be very good at stopping severe illness, hospitalization and death, Persichilli said. However, Oxford University said recently that early data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not authorized in the United States yet, offers only minimal protection against the mild disease caused by the South African variant, she said. The lead researcher for that vaccine manufacturer said they expect by the fall to have a modified vaccine to deal with the South African variant, Persichilli said.

How effective is the vaccine? The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection, according to the CDC, which cites clinical trial results. Evidence from clinical trials also show the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected, the CDC says.

Do I have to keep Masking and Social Distancing if I have the vaccine? Yes. “Getting the vaccine does not mean that you can’t get it. It’s not 100%,” said Dr. Jeanine Bulan, Medical Director at Atlantic Medical Group in Westfield. “No vaccine is 100%. So, we still need to take precautions to protect ourselves and stop the spread of the virus.”