Montgomery Township Health Officer Stephanie Carey briefed the Hopewell Borough Council on the latest COVID-19 efforts to get homebound senior residents in the borough vaccinated.
In her presentation on March 5, Carey informed the community about how the health department, which oversees Hopewell Borough, is currently maintaining a list of residents to get vaccinated who are over the age of 75, who struggle with the internet, who do not have access to the internet, who have difficulty driving and who have trouble managing a smart phone.
“In order to serve those seniors without internet we have an agreement with Mercer County Community College (MCCC) to set aside five slots for Hopewell Borough seniors who are older and struggle with internet access,” Carey said. “We get five slots for Hopewell Borough residents per week. We are reaching out to residents on the current waiting lists every week.”
MCCC’s weekly dose allocation for those seniors will also consist of five slots for Pennington and 45 slots for Hopewell Township.
At this point the health department is not taking new general eligibility people on the waitlist. They are still reaching out to people who are age 75 and up and do not have access to the internet, have difficulty with driving and managing a smart phone.
“We encourage eligible people who are looking for vaccine, who have a car and smart phone to sign up at the New Jersey COVID-19 vaccination scheduling system website (covidvaccine.nj.gov),” Carey said.
The health department is also encouraging people seeking a vaccine and who are also eligible to get the first COVID-19 vaccination shot available.
“We encourage you to take the first shot available and not search around for a preferred brand or preferred location. If you have transportation and can manage a smart phone you should use the state vaccination system, as well as systems by Penn Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson hospital system or CVS and take whatever appointment you are able to get,” she said.
Vaccination eligibility and access has recently expanded to teachers and support staff for pre-K through 12th grade, who were not currently eligible, starting March 15, which was announced by Gov. Phil Murphy on March 1.
Additionally, also eligible on March 15 are childcare workers in licensed and registered settings; public and local transportation workers, including bus, taxi, rideshare and airport employees; NJ Transit workers; and motor vehicle commission staff; public safety workers who are not sworn law enforcement or fire professionals, including probation officers and fire safety inspectors; migrant farm workers; members of tribal communities; and individuals experiencing homelessness and those living in shelters, including domestic violence shelters
Beginning March 29, additional frontline essential workers will be able to make appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations. Those additional essential workers eligible are in food production, agriculture and food distribution; eldercare and support; warehousing and logistics; social services support staff; elections personnel; hospitality; medical supply chain; postal and shipping services; clergy; and the judicial system.
“Right now we are in a race between variants and vaccinations. The United Kingdom variant is present in New Jersey. The good news is that vaccine is effective against it,” Carey said. “But the same methods we have been using throughout the pandemic – masking, social distancing, hand washing, avoiding crowds – also work in preventing the spread of the UK variant.”
Mayor Paul Anzano expressed that one of the priorities the borough has received from the county involves developing a program, where vaccines will be more available locally for people who are over 75 and homebound and have difficult traveling to a site.
“We do not know when and where, but it will be local. If you know someone who you believe to be homebound or would have difficulty traveling to MCCC, please get that info of the name, address and contact information to myself, Borough Administrator Michele Hovan and Carey, so we can get them on the list,” he said.
Anzano also advocated that everyone sign up for any vaccination registration site they can and should not be shy to do so.