State’s slow rollout continues as most doses remain unused
County health officials around the state are working to give out the COVID-19 vaccine and say that they are prepared to distribute more shots, but they need more vaccines from the state.
State health officials say that 75% of New Jersey’s COVID-19 supply has not been used, raising questions about the rollout.
Essex County currently has four vaccine distribution sites. County Executive Joe DiVincenzo says that the county is ready to give out more vaccine shots.
“But our need is also the greatest because… our positive rate in Essex County is the highest in the state. Our death rate is the highest in the state of New Jersey,” he says.
DiVincenzo has ordered another 15,000 vaccine doses from the state for the next two weeks, but there is no guarantee that he will get the supply. This kind of uncertainty is felt all around New Jersey.
“We have asked if this is going to be the norm, can we expect this? And there’s no guarantee,” says Monmouth County Commissioner Director Tom Arnone.
Monmouth County will begin a mobile vaccine tour Tuesday in Middletown, but shots are limited.
“Our office is being inundated with calls,” Arnone says.
He says that he is frustrated to only get about 500 shots per week and that he can only give them to health care workers and not to the elderly as well.
“I feel, personally, like I am letting down the residents of Monmouth County and I want them to know I am not, and my freeholders are not, - the supply is not there. We don’t control the supply,” Arnone says.
The state does control the supply. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says that the holidays got in the way of distributing some of the vaccine shots.
“People did not want to get vaccinated during the holidays, in case they didn’t feel well,” the commissioner said Monday.
Persichilli also blamed a reporting lag.
News 12 New Jersey asked two of the largest hospital systems in the state for an update on their vaccine rollout. Hackensack Meridian said it has vaccinated more than 12,000 of 36,000 workers. RWJ Barnabas did not respond back.
ShopRite has announced 40 pharmacies in New Jersey will be distributing the vaccine but did not say how many vaccine doses it would be given.
But what is clear is that people are eager to be vaccinated against the virus.
“They know we’re ready. The people are ready to get vaccinated too. We want to get it done as quickly as possible. We need to end this virus,” DiVincenzo says.
A fifth vaccination site in Essex County is set to open in a couple of weeks. Between government and private companies, there are 200 sites in New Jersey giving out COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story read that the Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo was frustrated with the delay. This is not true, as he has a positive working relationship with the Murphy Administration.