TOMS RIVER – Health care workers lined up for their vaccinations against COVID-19 at the appropriately named RWJ Barnabas Health Arena at Toms River High School North.
Health care workers are among the first tier of people being given the vaccine right now, according to state and federal rules. Several locations have been set up as vaccination clinics. This particular one was the first one being manned by the Ocean County Health Department.
The county started with 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine on December 29. The first day saw 250 doses.
Those designated as tier 1A were allowed first shot at the vaccine. Right now, the vaccines are being given to people working in these categories: hospitals, long care facilities, outpatient clinics, home health care, pharmacies, emergency medical services, and public health.
They are being done by appointment at OCHD.org.
If you are not in the health care field, then you are encouraged to continue to social distance, wear masks, and avoid gatherings.
“It’s important that we adhere to the schedule developed by the federal government and the state Department of Health,” said Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regenye. “While we expect the demand will be high, there is a process we are required to follow. Hopefully the supply of vaccine will continue to increase quickly and distribution will do the same.”
This first batch of vaccines are for health care workers who did not receive it at any other location.
The Health Department plans on opening up other clinics in the future, in other locations such as the southern reaches of the county.
“We are well positioned to be set up to distribute the vaccine whether it be at the arena or the future clinics that we will have,” Regenye said. They hired 50 nurses to help with these clinics.
Large scale vaccinations are part of the health department’s emergency plan, he said. Any given year, they could give 45,000 flu shots. They gave more than 30,000 vaccinations during the H1N1 outbreak.
Since March, Ocean County has had 29,274 cases of the coronavirus and almost 1,200 residents have died from it.
“This has been a very difficult time for all of us,” said Freeholder Gary Quinn, who is expected to serve as the 2021 Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “We are working diligently to meet the challenge and we are hopeful this vaccine will bring this pandemic under control.”
Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy, who is the county’s emergency management coordinator, said his office will be providing signage for easy navigation at the vaccination site as well as facility security and temperature monitoring at the site to insure the safety and health of clinic workers and participants.
The clinic resulted from a partnership with the Ocean County Health Department, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management, Toms River Regional Schools, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, RWJ Barnabas Healthcare System, and Hackensack Meridian Healthcare System.
“This will kick off what we expect to be months of COVID-19 vaccine clinics throughout Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Health Department. “We have been working with the state and our partners on the logistics of how to handle the distribution. It’s imperative this is done correctly.”