January 6, 2021

Officials Work to Speed Up Vaccine Rollout

By Donald Gilpin

With 101,417 people in New Jersey having so far received the first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s Monday, January 4 report, state health officials were looking to speed up the process in hopes of meeting their goal of 4.7 million vaccinations, 70 percent of the state’s population, in the next six months.

The Princeton Health Department continues to lead the local effort to combat the virus, with their current focus on delivering the vaccine effectively to protect as many local residents as possible.

“The vaccine distribution is front and center right now,” Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams wrote in a January 5 email. He noted that a local Princeton web portal would be up and running by the evening of January 5 in English and Spanish for COVID-19 vaccine registration for Princeton residents in the Phase 1B category, which includes frontline essential workers and individuals over 75.

“The rollout, on a national scale, has encountered some supply chain and other logistical issues, but locally, on our smaller scale, things are progressing well,” Williams said.

Currently vaccines are being administered, under the direction of the Mercer County Health Officers Association, to health care professionals and others in priority group 1A. Also in Phase 1A, workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities are getting vaccinated by their employers, and long-term care residents are getting vaccinated in house, with Walgreens or CVS distributing vaccines directly to them.

“While getting the vaccine into the arms of local 1A recipients is happening as expected, the lines of distribution become more muddled when determining when one phase ends and the next begins,” said Williams. “It is important to remember that the phases of distribution are guidelines, and they can be adapted based on the number of vaccines distributed.”

In the coming weeks, according to Williams, localized micro-clinics will be activated across Mercer County to help expedite the vaccination process for health care workers. There are six more micro-sites scheduled in January to vaccinate Mercer County health care workers and first responders. Last week’s two-day clinic vaccinated 438 healthcare and EMS workers. Additional clinics during Phase 1A over the next two weeks will include persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

Health care workers not directly affiliated with a medical facility, such as first responders, can choose a site. There are currently three COVID-19 vaccination sites in Mercer County, and the state is planning to set up six mega-sites for vaccine distribution. The two closest mega-sites to Princeton will be at Moorestown Mall in Burlington County and at the NJ Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.

Mercer County is planning to set up a vaccination site at Mercer County Community College. In addition to these sites, the vaccine will eventually be available at local pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and care clinics. See covid19.nj.gov/vaccine for further information.

On Tuesday, January 5, New Jersey launched its online vaccine scheduling system at covidvaccine.nj.gov to help Phase 1A recipients to identify vaccination locations and schedule appointments.

When vaccine availability expands, probably by the end of January, seniors 75 and older and frontline essential workers who fall into category 1B will be able to get vaccinated, followed in late winter or early spring by category 1C, adults 65 and over, and people with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19. This group also includes people who live or work in overcrowded settings, including migrant workers and those at colleges and universities. 

After these groups, the general public will be eligible for vaccination — probably in early to late spring, based on current projections. 

On January 4, The Princeton Health Department reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 in Princeton in the previous seven days, down from its highest seven-day total of 39 registered in mid-December, and 49 cases in the previous 14 days, down from its highest 14-day total of 66 in 14 days, also recorded in mid-December.  There were 42 active positive COVID-19 cases reported in Princeton with 446 patients recovered with isolation complete.