Ocean County has plan to speed up Covid-19 vaccination process
There aren't just dozens and hundreds of people but thousands and thousands in Ocean County alone waiting to appointments to start opening up so they can go and get vaccinated especially since Governor Murphy made an announcement moving the state from Phase 1A to Phase 1B and including more qualifications.
When he did, the phones almost literally rang off the hook at the Ocean County Health Department, at least to a point where they weren't operating properly and the website hit a wall as well as thousands immediately called, emailed or tried signing up on the website for a vaccination appointment.
"When the restrictions were opened up to people 65 and older and folks with underlying and chronic health conditions, we had about 25,000 appointments that were booked almost instantaneously off of our website. We had a couple hundred thousand people hit our website from 1:00 pm that day through the evening," Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Dan Regenye tells Townsquare Media Jersey Shore News. "Technology wise, it was a stress on our system, and I don't think we're alone in that."
He recommends that if you're looking for an appointment and there's nothing available, keep checking back and asks that you have patience.
So many hurdles and challenges in the present and more to come leaving a glaring question or two on when the pace will be picked up, when more sites will be open, when people will be able to get vaccinated.
When you factor in that Ocean County has nearly 600,000 residents, about the same number plus some more of how many vaccinations New Jersey has as a state, it's cause for some concern with NJ also having about 650,000 healthcare workers who need to be vaccinated first.
While there have been some challenges getting people vaccinated in terms of appointments, there has been a steady climb of late.
"We've conducted 19 clinics so far and have vaccinated over 8,000 people at the clinics," Regenye said. "As we get more of the vaccine, we'll keep going."
He sums of the challenges of the process right now to two main issues...staffing and having enough of the vaccine itself.
"We have 100 plus sites throughout the county that we can easily open up if we can just have the staffing and the vaccine in hand to be able to do so," Regenye said.
That's part of the plan in place, Regenye explains, which overall, is a community based model to provide the vaccine in as many different areas within Ocean County as possible.
While they have a plan in place to execute, they need more vaccine doses from the state to be able to do so which would allow more sites to open up as well.
"As we continue to get more of the vaccine and more staffing on board, I definitely see more of this community based model continuing and hitting all geographic locations within the county really mirroring what we do with our seasonal flu program where we have close to 100 sites throughout the county that we hit within a month/month-and-a-half," Regenye said. "I see us moving in that direction but the process will be a little different though setting up with appointments and the clinic flow is different but we're definitely looking to expand into more of a community based model."
They're also in need of additional staff and volunteers who can help administer the vaccine and be an extra hand on deck ready to do whatever is needed.
"We need people who can dedicate a few days a week, a minimum of two to three days, with a full shift," Regenye said. "We've had a lot of people that want to come out and give us two hours on a Saturday and we really do appreciate that but from a scheduling perspective and the time investment for those volunteers and managing them, we need to be able to get a schedule together of a core pool of individuals and be able to plug them into the different needs we have as an agency."
There are nearly 200,000 senior citizens in Ocean County, the most in the state, and some of them, especially those living in senior communities are not only having trouble booking appointments, but when they can, they're having trouble getting there.
Addressing this dilemma is a top priority.
There are 91 senior communities in Ocean County and many of these residents and others either can't find a ride or are physically unable to make an appointment.
Regenye says their goal is to be able to bring the vaccine to residents in these communities.
"The senior communities are of high concern for us. We're working with the Ocean County Office of Senior Services who has been surveying the senior communities to look for interest in us coming in. That interest has been very good and we're very thankful that there is a lot of demand out there for the vaccine, a lot of people want it, we just have to meet that demand," Regenye said. "Our goal is to be able to get to that point where we can get into each of the senior communities that want us to come in and provide that vaccination."
Ocean County 10th District Legislators have sent a letter to Governor Murphy asking him to allow this to happen.
You can hear more about Ocean County's Vaccination Plan in the video below: