The Blackwood site offers appointments to those who live and work in the county within the 1A and 1B categories of the New Jersey phased vaccination plan, as well as to seniors and those with health risks.
By Sarah Baldwin | January 14, 2021
Camden County residents eligible for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine may now schedule their inoculations at the Blackwood campus of Camden County College (CCC).
The college opened the doors of its Papiano Gym as the Camden County Vaccination Center, a joint effort among the county government and the Cooper University and Jefferson health systems.
“I believe this is the last battle with this virus that is decimating our communities,” Camden County Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli said Wednesday at the site opening.
“Getting this vaccine out to the public is one of the most important duties we have to protect the health and welfare of our residents, and we are going to do everything possible to achieve that objective at Camden County College and hopefully other locations soon,” Cappelli said.
Appointments are offered to those who work or live in Camden County and fall within the 1A and 1B categories of the New Jersey phased vaccination plan.
Those categories include healthcare workers with risks of exposure to infectious diseases, long-term care (LTC) residents and staff, first responders, law enforcement officers, childcare workers and teachers, and others.
Later on Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy also extended eligibility to seniors, immunocompromised people, and those with chronic health conditions that could prove fatal in concert with COVID-19.
The CCC site is currently offering the two-shot Moderna vaccine, although county officials said they’re prepared to provide whichever vaccine they can get.
After receiving their first shots, residents will be automatically scheduled for their second dose of the vaccine through the New Jersey Immunization Information System (NJIIS).
Vaccines are administered by volunteers from Jefferson and Cooper, medical students from Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU), graduate nursing students from Rutgers University-Camden, and public health employees.
Supply of the vaccine remains a critical element of the plan. Cappelli said the county had planned to open the CCC site last week, but did not receive an expected shipment of some 6,000 doses that are now awaited next week. With the extra doses in hand, staff can administer 500 to 1,000 shots per day as compared with the 150 they presently have available, he said.
Camden County Commissioner and county health department liaison Carmen Rodriguez hopes that the ease of the process will encourage all eligible residents to receive their shots for the sake of overall public health.
“This is not just to protect you or protect your life,” Rodriguez said.
“It is also protecting everyone around you: your parents, your grandparents, your children, your brothers and sisters, your family members who have compromised immune systems.”
Inside the gym, patients flowed through four lanes of traffic to receive their immunizations. Staffers monitored them for adverse reactions for 15 to 20 minutes afterwards.
Camden County Sheriff’s Officer Virginia Matias was among those getting their first doses of the vaccine Wednesday.
“I feel good; I don’t feel any pain,” she said. “It’s just a regular vaccine.”
Matias emphasized the importance of those who regularly deal with the general public receiving the vaccine as soon as they are eligible to do so.
Caryelle Lasher, who supervises the Communicable Disease Unit at the county health department also received her first dose at the center’s opening.
“It’s understandable that there is skepticism [about the vaccine],” Lasher said, “but there has been a lot of research done and a lot of safety measures have been taken.
“It’s been proven safe, and ultimately, we need to take every step we can to end COVID-19.”
Cappelli said the county hopes to open additional vaccination centers in the coming months.
The Blackwood site will be open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents can schedule appointments at CamdenCountyVaccine.com.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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