We're in the first round of vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna being administered to Healthcare and frontline workers and those in long term care facilities.

As the vaccines have arrived at the Jersey Shore, hospitals and health leaders have overseen the process take place in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.

Ocean County began distributing its first 1,500 doses of the COVID 19 vaccine from Moderna to health care workers at a vaccination clinic this week set up at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North.

Health care workers including EMTs, EMS, home healthcare workers, school nurses and medical reserve corps volunteers are among those who fall under the state and federal designation phase of 1A.

Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gary Quinn joined Dr. Mukesh Roy, Director, Emergency Preparedness and Planning for Ocean County Health Department and Dan Regenye, Ocean County Public Health Coordinator this week and watched as Medical Reserve Corp Volunteer Bill Cohen was administered the COVID 19 vaccine by Scott Carter, a public health nurse.

The vaccination clinic set up at the RWJ-BH Arena came as a result of the Ocean County Health Department, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management, Toms River Regional Schools, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, RWJ Barnabas Healthcare System and Hackensack Meridian Healthcare System.

More than 250 vaccines were administered during the first day of the clinic.

In Monmouth County, the MCHD began administering doses of the vaccine for the 1A category as well this week at a site on East Main Street in Freehold.

“The County Health Department has vaccinated 204 individuals who fall under the 1A category, more specifically healthcare and long-term care facility personnel,” Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said in a statement. “Unfortunately at this time, the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System portal is unavailable for the 1A category to schedule and track vaccination information for recipients. As a proactive measure, the Health Department has created an information form for individuals and groups within 1A to complete and send to covid19vaccine@co.monmouth.nj.us.”

Arnone said that the MCHD will contact people and groups to confirm the appointment as soon as more vaccine becomes available.

Vaccinations, at the moment, are strictly by appointment only right now.

Monmouth County has been receiving 500 vaccines per week, for the last two weeks, with no guarantee of future deliverers at this time.

Meanwhile, Hackensack Meridian Health has treated more COVID-19 patients than any other health system in the state to date and is now enrolling individuals in the Janssen Pharmacutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial.

HMH CEO Robert Garrett said the Phase 3 international, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled ENSEMBLE 2 trial run by Johnson and Johnson "is designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a two-dose regimen of Janssen’s investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate versus placebo in up to 30,000 adults 18 years old and older."

J&J vaccine trial launch at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. (Eric Meunch, Hackensack Meridian Health)

The trial underway includes anyone with and without comorbidities associated with an increased risk for severe COVID-19.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of history in creating safe and effective vaccines during this unprecedented global pandemic,’’ Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health, said in a statement. “This is another example of Hackensack Meridian Health’s commitment to transforming health care in New Jersey and beyond.’’

“Vaccines are one of the major pathways to victory over COVID-19,” Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack Meridian Health's Northern Market, and the chief research officer of the network, said in a statement. “Our health network is among those at the forefront of this fight.”

Garrett and Sawczuk explain that "the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate leverages the Company’s AdVac® technology platform, which was also used to develop and manufacture Janssen’s European Commission approved Ebola vaccine and construct its Zika, RSV, and HIV investigational vaccine candidates.

Janssen’s AdVac® technology platform has been used to vaccinate more than 150,000 individuals to date in clinical studies across Janssen’s investigational vaccine programs.

This ENSEMBLE 2 trial involves a two-dose regimen, administered on day 1 and day 57 of participation. Half of the volunteers will be administered the vaccine, with the other half administered placebo. The total study duration is more than two years.

The two-dose ENSEMBLE 2 study will run in parallel to and separate from the ongoing Phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial, which is now fully enrolled with approximately 45,000 participants across three continents and evaluating a single-dose of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Conducting the ENSEMBLE and ENSEMBLE 2 trials in parallel will provide valuable insights into the dosing schedules and help determine a path forward in both the short term and the long term to potentially help end the fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic."

Hackensack Meridian Health is currently looking to enroll up to 300 adults over 18 years old in New Jersey.

“As the leading academic medical center in Monmouth and Ocean counties, Jersey Shore’s research team is well-suited to conduct this important medical research, which is crucial as we battle COVID-19,” Dr. Kenneth N. Sable, M.D., MBA, FACEP, regional president, Hackensack Meridian Health, Southern Market, said in a statement.

“We’re glad to play a part in this critical work,” Ed Liu, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, and the study site’s principal investigator, said in a statement. “Since COVID-19 arrived, we have continually improved our ways to treat those affected by the virus, but having vaccine options could help us get past this pandemic.”

For more information about the trial, those interested can contact (551) 996-5977 or visit https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/covid19/.

Here is who is included in the 1A category:

Healthcare Personnel:

·         Hospital

·         LTC workers

·         Veterans’ home workers

·         Home care workers

·         Ambulatory and urgent care clinic workers

·         Dialysis center workers

·         Dental office workers

·         Morticians and funeral home workers

·         Pharmacy workers

·         Other non-hospital healthcare facilities workers

·         Public health workers (e.g. Federally Qualified Health Centers)

·         Group home workers

·         Other paid and unpaid licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers

·         EMS personnel

·         Other healthcare settings 

Long-term Care Personnel:

·         Long-term care facilities

·         Veterans homes

·         Correctional facilities, prisons, juvenile centers, county jail

·         IDD group homes

·         Mental health group homes

·         Psychiatric hospitals

·         Other long-term care settings 

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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