NEPTUNE – Seniors, front line coronavirus fighters and essential workers drove up to a special vaccination event held recently at the Ocean Health Initiatives Administration Office Building parking lot.
The outdoor drive-through event ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with nearly 500 pre-registered people receiving their first dosage of the vaccine.
“Eligibility was determined by the state. Not everyone had to be an OHI patient however, all registrants had a “portal” created in our system to create an immunization record,” said OHI’s Kristal Dias.
“We have 490, we could have up to 500. We only defrost as many as the consent forms we get. We have two more events coming up next week. Whatever we don’t use today will go toward those other events,” Dias said. She added that those who received their vaccination were then scheduled for their second dose which would be 28 days later.
She added, “at a mass event like this they will come back to the same location.”
Dias noted around 25-30 clinical and non-clinical staff were present to administer and assist with the vaccination process that day. The vaccine was from Moderna.
OHI is a nonprofit federally qualified health center that opened in 2003 has expanded to include seven health centers, a Mobile Medical Unit and two school-based wellness programs in Ocean and Monmouth counties.
The firm’s CEO Teresa Berger said, “This is our fourth event of this magnitude that we’ve had at this location. We had another one at our Freehold location. Today we’re slated to hit almost 500 vaccinations. We chose this location because of the size of the parking lot.”
“We have pharmacists in our mobile van drawing up all the vaccines. It has to remain at a specific temperature so we try to keep it in tens. You get 10 doses out of every one vile so if it is 485 we try to get that additional five because we don’t want to waste it. That is why we try to book in tens,” Berger said.
Dias added, “we have a provider on the other side of the lot and he checks every 15 or 30 minutes on whether they have allergies or anything like that.”
Howell resident Richard Wood was one of the hundreds getting the vaccine that day. “This is great science and no one should be afraid to take this. Hopefully, this will slow the pandemic down from people getting it.” He was joined by three other members of his family who also received the vaccine.
“I’m a little apprehensive but I know it is necessary. I want to protect myself as well as others. I think it is a great thing. You have to start somewhere. We have a lot ahead of us yet. I’m doing this because I also want to see my granddaughter. This is very well organized. You are in your car and not with people you don’t know and I feel safe,” Genia Mazurek of Jackson said.
Viviana Velez came from Sommerville for her vaccination. She works for Amnel, a pharmaceutical firm and said, “I believe the vaccine gives a chance and at least we don’t feel you will die from it. Science will take care of us.”
Sea Girt resident Paul Hooker was on line in the car with his wife Margo awaiting their turn to be vaccinated. “In the state of New Jersey this is not working because what they did was to sign up and they label you A, B or C. When the time comes for distribution…as long as you are 65 the protocol process completely ends there.”
Hooker added that he felt while grateful to receive the vaccine, that it should first go to police, first responders and health care workers. “They should all be ahead of us. In the state they are but then when the distribution comes it is 65, they ask no other questions, just your date of birth.”
“We are grateful don’t get us wrong,” Margo Hooker added.
“But there is a guilty feeling,” her husband added. “This system in New Jersey, it started to work but when you register for a space you feel good about it. Our friends told us to go to OHI and we got it right away.”
“That’s not right. The problem is that because it is not a federal program but a state program you have 50 states that are doing this all different. Right now New Jersey is getting the vaccine in the arm but not the right people. It is not fair, not right and we are a beneficiary of it but we didn’t do anything to gain the system,” he added.
OHI has Ocean County locations in Lakewood, Manahawkin, Little Egg Harbor, Lakehurst, Brick and Jackson. It primary and preventative health and dental care to Ocean and Monmouth County’s uninsured, underinsured and insured populations. Services include family and internal medicine, dental, pediatrics, women’s health, behavioral health and social services, podiatry and pharmacy services.
“History has shown us that vaccines are the key to stopping the spread of viruses. Getting vaccinated is the most important thing we can all do to end the pandemic. We are vaccinating as many people as we can each week, we won’t stop until everyone who wants a vaccination has one,” said OHI Vice President of Quality Assurance and Enabling Services Theresa Bello.