NEWARK, NJ — Although Essex County stands among the leading regions in the state for COVID-19 vaccines administered, Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. on Tuesday issued a letter to federal legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy, calling for more doses.
As one of the first counties to set up vaccination sites when doses became available in December 2020, Essex officials' efforts have resulted in 120,000-plus residents inoculated with first doses and 60,000-plus residents with second doses.
While the numbers may be a positive sign for the county executive, in a letter penned to U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and U.S. Reps. Donald Payne, Jr., Mikie Sherrill, Albio Sires and Tom Malinowski, he writes that the vaccine sites are still "grossly underutilized" and says the county has the potential to reach more citizens.
"We have proven our vaccination initiatives to be efficient and effective, yet our weekly allotment has remained at 12,000 doses," the letter reads. "We have the capacity to be vaccinating between 25,000 and 30,000 people per week – if only we had more doses."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the county executive noted that his staff has worked cooperatively with Gov. Murphy's administration to set up vaccination programs for residents, however, he said that not enough is being done at a federal level to distribute more doses.
"I believe it’s an injustice that more support from the Federal government is not being given to ensure the number of doses to Essex County is not increased,' he writes.
Over the past several months, county officials have not only topped the state in vaccines administered but have also expanded initiatives to get doses into the Black and brown communities and other hard-to-reach populations.
The county currently hosts five vaccination sites and mobile pop-up clinics in urban communities every week. In February, officials announced the formation of a partnership to team up with local religious leaders to ensure trust in the vaccine and support equitable access of it in the area’s minority communities.
Although officials have implemented various programs to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, Essex County remains one of the hardest-hit regions in the state by the pandemic.
As of March 23, county officials reported 2,480 COVID-related deaths and 73,932 confirmed positive cases. In Newark, officials reported 902 COVID-related deaths and 33,470 confirmed positive cases.
"I understand there are not enough doses on a national level to meet the demand," DiVincenzo wrote. "But I am asking you to lobby President [Joe] Biden to increase the number of doses to New Jersey so Essex County can get its fair share... We continually hear from the President that more doses will be available, yet we have not seen this in Essex County."
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 St., Newark: Newark, East Orange, Irvington and Orange.
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.
Newark residents 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 www.EssexCOVID.org or by calling 973-877-8456. Vaccinations will be given in two doses. Residents making reservations to receive the vaccination will receive two appointments.