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Somerset Using New J&J Allocations to Ensure Seniors Are Vaccinated

Homebound, Travel-Restricted Seniors & Disabled to Be Focus of New Vaccine Allocations

Post Date:03/09/2021 2:49 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2021

BRIDGEWATER – Somerset County is taking advantage of its first shipment of 700 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID vaccine doses to ensure seniors who have had difficulty obtaining vaccination appointments are protected during the pandemic. The county held its first mobile clinic geared toward seniors this morning at the Somerville Senior Citizens Housing complex in downtown Somerville where the residents received the single-dose vaccine, and is now implementing a waiting list for seniors and the homebound interested in being vaccinated.

“Many of our seniors are having difficulty obtaining an appointment to get a COVID vaccine dose due to technology issues, travel limitations, or just the large demand for vaccinations outstripping the supply,” said Somerset County Commissioner Doug Singleterry, liaison to Somerset County Public Health and Safety. “Now that we have a more mobile, single dose vaccine we are better able to hold satellite clinics closer to where seniors live, and even come directly to some homebound residents’ homes.”

99-year-old Golden M. Strayhorn receives her JJ vaccination at the Somerville Senior Citizen’s Housing complex. Ms. Strayhorn said she was glad to be vaccinated so she could have more visits with her three grandsons.Despite vaccine allocations from the state and federal government remaining largely static, the vaccine eligibility criteria expanded in February to include adults with underlying medical conditions, and now in March to include teachers and school workers. This has greatly increased the demand for vaccinations without significantly increasing the supply, making it even more difficult for seniors who may not be familiar with the appointment technology to obtain appointments.

To address this, the Somerset County Department of Health (SCDoH) is creating the Somerset County COVID-19 Vaccination Waiting List that will prioritize seniors for specific portions of its vaccine allocation. As with the Somerville clinic today, the SCDoH will initially hold vaccination clinics in buildings and communities where seniors live and socialize, and at the homes of residents unable to travel through county programs such as Meals on Wheels.

“At this time there is still a low supply of vaccine, and while we have received 700 doses of the J&J vaccine the state tells us we will probably not receive additional allocations until April and cannot commit to how many doses we will receive,” said Dr. Namitha Reddy, director of the Somerset County Department of Health. “Therefore, even though we are creating the Senior Citizen waiting list, we ask for everyone’s patience over the coming weeks and encourage everyone to take any opportunity to be vaccinated that presents itself.”

Residents 65 and older who would like to add their contact information to the waiting list can do so by calling the Somerset County COVID Hotline at (908) 231-7155, or by filling out the online form at https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/covidQs.

90-year-old Aurelia Caraos receives her dose of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine at the  Somerville Senior Citizen’s Housing complex.Once the state begins providing additional doses in April, the SCDoH will begin calling seniors on the Somerset County COVID-19 Vaccination Waiting List who are 75 years and older or with serious underlying conditions to schedule appointments. Once residents meeting that criteria have received appointments through the County or other provider, the call center will begin reaching out to residents 70 years and older, and then 65 years and older until the list is completed. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has certain advantages over other available vaccines for providers focused on seniors. The vaccine is a single dose, meaning that there is no need to schedule a second appointment with the senior. Additionally, the vaccine can be transported to multiple locations in a single day in support of small collective residences, smaller clinics, or directly to residences of the homebound.

The SCDoH has been working with local Offices of Emergency Management, law enforcement, non-profits, and the county’s Human Services Department to identify residents 65 and older who have not been able to obtain a vaccination. In addition to contact information provided by local officials and self-identified residents, county Human Services is using its Meals on Wheels, Senior Center, ParaTransit and other programs to build the Somerset County COVID-19 Vaccination Waiting List.

Somerset County will continue administering the Moderna two-dose vaccine at the Raritan Valley Community College location, and as allocations increase will be adding both mobile and drive-through vaccination sites in the county.

The COVID-19 Senior Citizen Vaccination Waiting List does not guarantee an appointment, and any appointments may occur many weeks after being added to the list based on vaccine supply and demand. Everyone is encouraged to continue seeking an appointment by registering and scheduling through the state system at https://covidvaccine.nj.gov/, or through a pharmacy or medical partner listed at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/covid-19-vaccine-locations-for-eligible-recipients.

Residents requiring a COVID-19 test can find a list of public and commercial test sites at https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/residents/covid-19-status-site/testing-sites/ .

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