MANCHESTER – Despite some good news regarding the addition of a county operated vaccination site in the township, concerns remain high regarding the availability of COVID-19 vaccine in Manchester.
Township officials and health care workers have been keeping a close watch on vaccine availability and have noted that expected dosages were not in the supply originally expected.
Vaccination Site Opens
The county opened a vaccination site at Manchester Township Elementary School for two days. The first day, March 26, included school district staff and also included Lakehurst school district staff.
The second day, March 27, was for the public “with our staff volunteering to help with non-medical tasks,” said Lee Bruzaitis, public information officer for Manchester Township Schools.
OCHD Health Officer Daniel Regenye, said 198 members of the two school districts were registered to receive the Moderna vaccine on March 26.
“We are testing out the new site before it goes public. We start small and it expands and we look at the clinic flow and the process of the room and setup. Working with the teachers is the easiest way rather than starting with the seniors and folks who are little less mobile,” Regenye said.
He explained the public clinic on March 27th would have “about 350 that are all seniors. We work with the Ocean County Office of Senior Services. They are set up to assist seniors with setting up appointments. Everyone coming in was set up through that process.” That goal is dependent on the supply of vaccines.
He said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was used for March 27 “which is the one shot and done. We’re trying to target them for the J and J because it is more difficult for them to come back again for a second dosage. We got notice that we will be getting 3,000 doses next week.”
Manchester School Superintendent David Trethaway said, “we’re very grateful to the Ocean County Health Department for vaccinated our staff and the seniors of our community. Our staff will be volunteering all the way through.”
Among the staff that received their first shot in the arm was Manchester High School teacher Victoria Trapp who received it from OCHD public health nurse Lisa Loewenstein “It was just a pinch. I have volunteered to help tomorrow. I think this is fantastic. I appreciate that they are doing this and that we can take advantage of it. The kids have to get back to school and we have to do our part.” Trapp said.
Councilman James Vaccaro said residents were having trouble signing up for appointments to receive the vaccine. “I know our mayor, his staff and our senior services department are working very hard to establish vaccination sites located in Manchester Township exploring the aspect of drive thru COVID-19 testing and other vaccination sites,” Vaccaro said.
“The real hold up is the lack of vaccine in Ocean County and elsewhere versus the public demand to get vaccinated. We must continue our efforts to help our citizens to curtail the growth and spread of the COVID-19 virus and the new virus strains coming into Manchester Township and into the state of New Jersey and surrounding states,” he said.
Mayor Ken Palmer said agreed with Councilman Vaccaro’s comments that “the limiting factor is not necessarily our ability to provide the vaccination or a site it is just actually getting the vaccinations.” He noted an article in the news stating, “the state actually pulled back some of the county’s vaccinations for that particular week.”
“It does look like we will have a site in town. It won’t be open every day. It will be set days and I believe the county will announce details of the availability for appointments for the town,” Mayor Palmer added.
Small Pharmacies Not Getting Vaccines
Nirmit Patel, a doctor of Pharmacy and the Pharmacist in charge/owner of the Whiting Pharmacy noticed firsthand how residents are having trouble getting vaccines. His location has followed the state’s guidelines but has not received any supply.
“They have not allocated any vaccine to us. Our patient population in Whiting is consistent with a large elderly population who are at an increased risk for contracting the virus and increased mortality,” Patel said.
“This community is also at a disadvantage due to the inability to use technology to find other locations to receive the vaccination. We have gone above and beyond to sign up all patients who are interested and eligible to receive the vaccine along with keeping them updated as we move forward through the process,” Patel added.
Patel said “this population of residents are the most vulnerable, but yet are being overlooked. We have over 4,000 patients registered with us to get the vaccine but have not received any communication from the state yet.”