As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues across New Jersey, N.J. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli addressed over 250 employer-members of the Employers Association of New Jersey in a tele-conference on Friday, January 15th.
During the call, Persichilli said more than 310,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, and New Jersey has been receiving about 106,000 doses per week - 53,000 of the Moderna vaccine, 53,000 of the Pfizer vaccine.
With the expansion last week of the list of who's eligible for the vaccine, there are more than 4 million New Jersey residents who can receive it.
The fourth of the six mega-sites opened, and there are more than 160 smaller sites — including county vaccination clinics and pharmacies — administering the doses.
"We have the distribution capacity," Persichilli said. "We just need the supply from the feds to meet that demand, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are ready but they are not."
"We could use 470,000 doses a week," she added.
During the call, Persichilli took questions about how to sign up for the vaccine, where vaccinations are being administered and when vaccinations may be available:
How can you register for a vaccination?
The state is taking registration for vaccine appointments now on the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System. More than 1.5 million New Jersey residents have registered on the site, Persichilli said.
Residents can visit covid19.nj.gov/vaccine to pre-register.
Is every vaccination site linked to the state's registration system?
No. Persichilli said there are a number of sites that are not linked.
Many of them "are hospital-based and the hospitals are using their own registration system that they use for their patients every day," she said. "[It's] a little clunkier than we would like, but ... registration systems that particularly the hospitals are familiar with are up and running and running well."
What happens when I register?
On the state's vaccine scheduling system, find the county where you want to have an appointment. If there are no vaccination sites listed that are linked to the state registration system, you will be directed to a link or information on the vaccination site closest to you, and you can call or register through that site's link.
Will we be notified when an appointment is available?
Yes. Persichilli said emails are sent out in batches when appointments are available at the mega-sites. Some county sites are linked to the appointment system through the NJ Vaccine Scheduling System but not all.
Persichilli said more than 66,000 emails have gone out to tell people they can schedule an appointment; as of Friday, more than 10,000 had scheduled their appointments.
"There are currently many more people seeking vaccination than there are appointments available across the state," she said, urging people to be patient. "As vaccine supply increases, additional slots will become available for people to make appointments."
Can I make an appointment without going online?
As of Saturday, there is no telephone number to register or make appointments to accommodate senior citizens and others who do not have computer or Internet access.
Persichilli said a call center is in the works and should be up and running within the next two weeks.
Will the state's vaccine registration system ever automatically assign appointments?
Persichilli said there are no plans to have the system automatically assign appointments, so those who register should keep an eye out for the email telling them when they can schedule an appointment.
What about those who don't have access to drive to a mega-site or a local site in their area?
The state is working on plans for mobile vans that will go into underserved communities, with COVID-19 information, vaccine education, and vaccinations. That is anticipated to begin "as soon as we have enough vaccines to move into broader dissemination," Persichilli said.
"At this time demand is much greater than supply so please, we ask the public to be patient. The state is working hard to vaccinate as many eligible people as possible with the available doses that we have," she said.
"I do want to make a distinction between the mega sites and the county sites. There are a number of counties that have put up their own sites. And very appropriately, they will give priority to the county residents first," Persichilli said. "I want to make that clear, go to a mega site, with the state-supported site anyone can go there, but the counties will give priority to their county residents first. And if others show up, they'll do the callback system to make sure that at the end of the day, all doses are used."
As of Friday, key metrics have risen sharply across New Jersey as the State now is reporting its highest weekly case totals ever, exceeding even the worst days of the pandemic's first wave in March and April.
If the State gets any worse, Persichilli said, New Jersey's solution will be "increased testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantining."
As the weather remains cold and people stay inside, she said, the risk of transmission will continue to grow.
"Now is not the time to let your guard down," she said. "The virus has not stopped circulating."
"There will be more vaccine with each coming week. We urge everyone to be patient," she said.
COVID Vaccine resources referenced during the call can be accessed through EANJ’s Return to Work page.