NJ community COVID-19 vaccine clinics launch with Somerset church
New Jersey is adding a handful of temporary, community-based COVID-19 vaccine sites as of Monday, with the first set for Somerset County.
Doses of vaccine were to be given by appointment as handled at the local level, starting at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in the Somerset section of Franklin Township, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Friday.
The initial phase of the community-based effort also would include sites in Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland, and Paterson, through a partnership between local, state and federal organizations, the governor said.
“These cities have been strategically selected as they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are some of the most diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the state,” Murphy said in a written release.
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino residents of New Jersey, and was the leading cause of death for people of color statewide last year, according to health assessment data analyzed by NJ Spotlight.
The virus became the top cause of death in 2020 for Black, Hispanic and Asian residents in NJ, while becoming the third-largest cause of death among non-Hispanic whites, behind heart disease and cancer, according the same report.
Starting with the church in Somerset, vaccines at each community site would be taken from the state’s supply, at the rate of roughly 1,500 doses per week over a two-week period for each location, according to the same press release. There also would be a return clinic at each site to administer second doses.
“To stay on track toward our goal of equity in these high-need communities, these sites will be closed points of distribution for members of the immediate community only,” Murphy also said.
“We are ready for this,” Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens said in the same press release.
Soaries stressed that all available appointments at his church already were filled, among them a 105-year-old community member.
“We have 100 staff and volunteers who are going to serve and assist seniors,” he said.
As of Sunday, the state had seen 1,341,185 total vaccine doses administered.
Amid the significant impact of COVID-19 on people of color statewide, just 4% of those vaccinated in NJ so far have been Black patients, while 5% are Hispanic/Latinx and 51% are White, according to state data.
Another 6% of people who have received at least their first shot in NJ are Asian, while another 18% are “unknown” and 16% are an ethnicity other than those highlighted as choices.
New Jersey was prepping another 142,975 vaccine first doses for the week starting Sunday, according to a weekend email that went out to residents pre-registered with the NJ vaccine scheduling system.
Of those, 55,575 were Pfizer doses and 87,400 Moderna doses. Another 111,675 second doses, roughly split between both brands also were being received, the email from state health officials said.
As of mid-February, those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in NJ were health care personnel and long term care residents and staff, as well as first responders, those 65 and older and adults 18 and older who have one or more high risk condition, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The rollout still has yet to include the rest of the state's 1B group, which includes other essential workers who are unable to work remotely, such as public transit staff, grocery store workers and warehouse employees.
There also has been a growing call for educators to be added to the eligibility list, as teachers' unions have said it is a key element of being able to have more schools switch to more in-person instruction.
In addition to the COVID-19 immunization sites that use the state's vaccine scheduling system, appointments still also can be made, as available, with locations that use a separate system, as listed online.
A number of CVS and Rite Aid pharmacies across the state have begun receiving limited COVID-19 vaccine supply directly from the federal government, as part of a nationwide effort to ramp up vaccine availability.
NJ veterans or those who live or work at a VA facility also could be eligible for vaccines through the VA, according to state officials.