WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Regional Health Department director envisions her department’s role in distributing vaccines will focus on people unable to travel to vaccination sites and won’t begin until next month when the vaccine is anticipated to become more widely available.

While the health department’s application to be a vaccine provider is on hold pending availability of the vaccine, Director Megan Avallone told the board of health Monday that she is discussing with Union County what role her department would take in supporting distribution of the vaccine.

“We are really looking at how we can best get vaccine to people who need it the most,” Avallone said. “But of course, the number one problem is we have to wait for that vaccine be available.”

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The department would likely support or run small clinics for people who are not able to travel to vaccine sites, she said. And this wouldn’t happen until vaccines are more widely available, which Avallone said she anticipates would not be until March at the earliest.

Avallone said her department has been receiving calls from residents seeking the vaccine and unable to find available appointments.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “We’re fielding calls from residents, who are frustrated day in and day out.”

MORE: Westfield COVID Vaccine Q&A: Experts Answer Questions on a Complicated Process

Avallone noted that in addition to the state’s vaccine call center, the county has set up a call center aimed at aiding seniors and others who might have trouble or be unable to navigate the online platforms for vaccine registration.

The number for the state Department of Health’s vaccine support line is: 1-855-568-0545.

The number for the county’s vaccine support line is 908-613-7VAX (7829). Click here for more information about the county call center.

Board member Steven Gorelick, who said he secured his vaccination at a state mega-site in Gloucester County, noted the confusing system for rollout of the vaccine.

“If you’re willing to travel the distance, you can also sign up on the mega site’s website, too,” he said, adding: “There’s a lot of entry points.”

Avallone said that the state’s link to register for COVID-19 vaccine only connects with 5% of the sites offering the vaccine.

“Try every site, and keep trying,” she said. “Yes. You can register with the state. But do also get your name on the list for all the individual sites as well.”

The discussion of vaccines comes amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. Westfield saw a 45% rise in COVID-19 cases, from 333 people in December to 483 people in July.

Avallone said these were driven mostly by indoor gatherings.

“The number one driver of infection is really, really indoor gatherings,” she said. “I don’t mean big parties, but as we’ve talked about: family dinners, small birthday gatherings.”

Due to a technical error, officials said, the link to Monday’s online board of health meeting was not working for the public. The meeting, however, has since been posted online. It can be accessed here.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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