BRICK – There is no shortage of COVID-19 vaccine in Ocean County, and there is plenty to meet the demand, said public information officer for the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Brian Lippai.
Attendance at the clinics are somewhat down at the moment as compared to when the vaccine first became available, he said, and said he attributes that to “summertime pandemic fatigue.”
He said people who wanted the shot early on and were anxious to get vaccinated have it by now.
“What we’re trying to do now is urge folks who are kind of on the fence to seriously look into getting vaccinated,” he said in a recent phone interview.
“Do your homework – you’ll see that the vaccine is very safe and very effective. They help contain the spread, and ultimately it saves lives, and getting the vaccine lessens the severity of the disease,” Lippai said. “There are so many benefits.”
The OCHD is also making a push to get college students vaccinated before they return to school this fall.
The number of Ocean County residents getting their shots vary on a daily basis. The two mega-centers at RWJ Barnabas Arena at Toms River High School North and at Southern Regional High School have shut down and the department is focusing on “pop-up” clinics.
“We’re asking people to invite us wherever they want us to come,” Lippai said. “We’re willing to go.”
For example, the department was recently invited to run a clinic at a senior community where they administered less than 10 vaccines, “which is more than were vaccinated yesterday,” he said.
The number of COVID patients has leveled off, with occasional spikes and dips, Lippai said. The OCHD expects to see a spike increase in the fall when children return to school. He said he hopes this would motivate some parents to get vaccinated.
The Delta variant, which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says is the most common coronavirus strain for new infections in the US, could also play a role in an upward trend, he added.
Not every sample collected by the OCHD is tested for the Delta variant, Lippai said.
“If a specimen tests positive, the state can test further for Delta and other variants,” he explained.
How they determine that is based on a number of factors, including a specific request by the OCHD because contact tracing has identified a person who had been around others known to have the Delta variant.
There is also a random selection of testing based on other flags that may warrant further investigation, Lippai said.
The public information officer was asked if residents should still be wearing masks even though masks are not required in New Jersey.
He said the department recommends following guidelines established by the CDC and by the state, which says fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask indoors.
Lippai said if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for other health reasons, wear a mask.
“It’s up to the individual – if you feel that you’re going into a high-risk situation, or you’re a high-risk individual yourself, that’s something you might want to think about,” he said.
The CDC website says masks are still required of everyone when on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation in the United States.
Also, those who have not been fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
The OCHD has COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled at convenient locations throughout the month of July. For more information visit OCHD.org.