January 27, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Shortages Continue to Frustrate

By Donald Gilpin

Many frustrated residents of Princeton and elsewhere in New Jersey are eager to get the COVID-19 vaccination, and government officials, health care workers, and businesses are possibly even more frustrated and anxious to see the state’s residents vaccinated. But the state’s vaccination clinics cannot get enough doses, and most individuals trying to schedule appointments by phone or online are told to wait.

“Please be patient with this process and do not call or email asking about appointments,” Princeton Mayor Mark Freda and the Princeton Council wrote in their Monday, January 25, newsletter. “Currently, there is a severe vaccine shortage. The Princeton Health Department has the resources to hold clinics and vaccinate residents as soon as the vaccine is available.” The local health department receives vaccines through Mercer County, which receives vaccines from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).

In a Tuesday, January 26 email, Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams added, “We are all still grappling with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines. We are just as disappointed in the rollout as anybody. But without a supply of vaccines, we must focus on limiting exposure to the disease by continuing to message the benefits of COVID-19 safety measures while being prepared to participate in the distribution efforts when more vaccines arrive.”

As of the morning of January 26, the NJDOH reported 605,397 doses administered in New Jersey (523,008 of those were the first of two necessary doses), 15,072 doses administered in Mercer County. The goal is for New Jersey to vaccinate 70 percent of its adult population, about 4.7 million people, by the end of June.

In his January 22 COVID-19 email update, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes also urged patience. while pointing out that the state and the county are dependent on the federal government for an adequate vaccine supply.

“The effort to  administer COVID-19 vaccinations here in Mercer County and across the state has been slowed by a lack of vaccine coming to New Jersey from the federal government,” he wrote. “We expect the situation to improve in the coming weeks with a new administration in Washington pledging to significantly ramp up vaccine production and distribution. In the meantime we are facing a supply that falls far short of demand, but we will
make sure we use every dose we do receive.”

The Princeton Monday newsletter from mayor and Council recommended three strategies for finding and registering for a COVID vaccine (no promises of being able to avoid frustration or to make an appointment): 1) Pre-register on the New Jersey vaccine registration portal at covidvaccine.nj.gov or call (855) 568-0545 for customer service phone support.  If you pre-register the NJDOH will email you when it is time to schedule an appointment. 2) Review a list of the NJ COVID-19 vaccine locations, also at covidvaccine.nj.gov. Some of these clinics have their own registration portal where you might be able to register. 3) Sign up on the Princeton COVID-19 Vaccination Registration/Screening Tool at princetonnj.gov. The municipality reports that there are currently more than 20,000 individuals on their waitlist. Individuals will be contacted in the order received based on their eligibility. 

Since mid-January eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination in New Jersey has included all residents over 65, smokers, and anyone from 16 to 64 with a qualifying medical condition, as well as health care personnel, long-term care residents and staff, and first responders.

The Princeton Health Department on Monday, January 25 reported 14 new cases in Princeton in the previous seven days, far below the highest seven-day total of 39 recorded in December, and 46 new cases in the previous 14 days, a significant decline from the high of 66 recorded last month. There were 45 active positive cases in Princeton.

Williams noted that New Jersey’s second COVID-19 wave had peaked, according to the NJDOH dashboard, but he added, “There is still a lot we all must continue to do to see things like case numbers and positivity rates subside.”

The New Jersey transmission rate declined Tuesday to 0.92 from 0.94, with any number below 1 signifying a decline in the spread of the virus.