UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County has struggled to provide enough COVID-19 vaccines to meet demand, especially for seniors and other residents without computers, but the Board of Commissioners says it will ramp up its outreach efforts next week.
Anyone 65 and older is eligible to receive the vaccine, as are persons aged 16 to 64 years old who have at least one chronic medical condition that poses high-risk for severe COVID-19.
“The huge demand, coupled with limited supply, is resulting in few available appointments, and that’s left a lot of people feeling frustrated,” said Union County Commissioner Chair Al Mirabella at Thursday’s meeting.
As of Friday, state's COVID-19 dashboard showed 24,072 doses of the vaccine administered in Union County. But the county has been hampered by the same limitations New Jersey is facing on the state level: a limited supply of vaccinations and limited guidance from the federal government under former President Trump.
“The state is only receiving 100,000 vaccinations per week. That’s for more than 4 million New Jersey residents that are eligible for the vaccination,” Mirabella said.
Like Gov. Phil Murphy, Mirabella is hopeful more vaccines will be available under the administration of President Joe Biden, who was sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Despite the obstacles, commissioners were appreciative of county officials in charge of vaccine distribution.
Commissioner Sergio Granados, impressed that more than 400 county residents were vaccinated on Wednesday, said “while we know not everybody can be happy because there are not enough vaccinations through the federal government, at the local level and the county level, we’re doing our part.”
Mirabella said beginning next week, the county will launch a series of initiatives to increase vaccination outreach to underserved communities, seniors and those who may lack access to the internet.
The county will also launch a dedicated vaccination appointment call center for residents starting next week, he said. A limited number of appointments will be available to those who do not have access to the internet through a phone number. Mirabella expects the phone number to be made available to the public next Tuesday.
In addition to its vaccination center at Kean University in Union Township, he added, “we will be launching a mobile outreach next week, beginning in the city of Plainfield.”
In the meantime, Mirabella told Union County residents who are trying to schedule their vaccination appointments that the county will add new slots as soon as the supplies come in.
Union County residents can visit ucnjvaccine.org to make an appointment or call 908-518-4307 for assistance.
In addition to vaccinations, the county offers free COVID-19 tests at their drive-up center at Kean University and is continuing to schedule walkup COVID-19 test events, for which no appointment is necessary. Locations, dates and times for these events can be found on the county website.
Watch the board of commissioner's Thursday meeting: