Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson has been inundated with calls from residents who are concerned and confused about the COVID-19 vaccinations. To help promote transparency and keep residents well-informed, he wants to share as much information as is readily available.
“We understand that is has been difficult for many people to fully understand when and where the vaccines will be available and when they may be able to receive them, depending on which state-designated group they may belong,” he said. “I am pleased to share that the Atlantic County Division of Public Health, in cooperation with Atlantic Cape Community College, is preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment to eligible community healthcare workers (Phase 1A) beginning Jan. 5, 2021 at the college’s Mays Landing campus.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control has designated the first group to receive the vaccine, identified as Phase 1A, as long-term care residents and staff and healthcare personnel who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19. The State of New Jersey has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to provide the vaccine to long-term care facilities and some Shop Rite pharmacies will also participate as providers. County health departments have been asked to provide vaccine to community healthcare workers who have not been vaccinated through their employer or other provider.
The state has identified this group of healthcare workers to be “paid or unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and who are unable to work from home.”
“Atlantic Cape Community College has been a terrific partner in providing the use of its gymnasium for our initial vaccination clinics,” Levinson said. “The location is secure and centrally located with easy access for all.”
According to Levinson, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health has received a very limited supply of the Moderna vaccine at this time but anticipates receiving more before Jan. 5. The county will begin accepting appointments from 1A-designated individuals later this week on the county’s website at www.aclink.org. Walk-ins will not be accepted.
“We’re anxious to get started and are prepared to vaccinate these 1A frontline workers next week provided we receive our expected delivery of additional vaccine,” he said. “This week we are vaccinating those who will be administering the vaccine at our clinics, including public health staff and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers in addition to community emergency responders who will be supporting this effort.”
Levinson said vaccinations depend on the availability of vaccines from federal and state governments.
“We appreciate the public’s cooperation and patience. We plan to share as much information as we receive to keep everyone apprised,” Levinson added. “Keep in mind, however, that these vaccine distribution plans depend largely on the availability of vaccine from our federal and state governments, and we must distribute the vaccine in accordance with their guidance for priority populations.”
Gov. Phil Murphy recently acknowledged an enormous supply and demand imbalance and reiterated that New Jersey is currently only vaccinating those in Phase 1A. There are approximately 650,000 eligible residents identified as 1A, and according to the state, it could be weeks before it moves to the next phase.
When that happens, those in Phase 1B may include individuals 75 and older and frontline essential workers such as grocery store staff, transportation and delivery drivers, education and childcare workers, among others. They would be followed by Phase 1C comprised of other essential workers, adults 65-74 and adults with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19. Phase 2 would follow the completion of Phases 1A, 1B and !C, and would include the general public. But the individuals designated in these subsequent phases could still be modified.
Atlantic County is also working with the state on plans for vaccine distribution at the Atlantic City Convention Center, one of six facilities selected by the state Department of Health to serve as a vaccination mega site that will be available to provide mass vaccinations.
“We had our first call with representatives from the governor’s office on Christmas Eve to discuss plans for the Atlantic City Convention Center and we will have a walk-through during which we hope to learn more about the anticipated timeline and process,” the county executive said.
Murphy has indicated the mega sites could be up and running in January, however, they will only be available for individuals in the designated phase at that time.
“There are many moving parts and some of the details we receive are subject to change,” Levinson said.
He advised residents to periodically check the county website for updates and to monitor media outlets for more information as it becomes available.
In the meantime, Levinson reminded the public to continue to wear their facemasks, maintain social distancing, wash hands frequently and avoid large gatherings.
“We’re here for the long haul to help protect the health and safety of Atlantic County residents,” he said.