A Message from the Health Officer
Over the past several months, Northwest Bergen Regional Health Commission (NWBRHC) has taken a multi-faceted approach to become an approved COVID-19 vaccination site so we can continue to serve our communities in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. As you are likely aware, vaccine allocation has been largely unpredictable throughout the country. NWBRHC expected to begin administering vaccines the week of 2/1/21 and placed a direct vaccine order with the State of NJ to receive doses.
Unfortunately, the New Jersey Department of Health abruptly changed course and determined vaccines would be allocated exclusively to county-run sites rather than working directly with local health departments. This decision has resulted in significant uncertainty as to the number of vaccines, if any, NWBRHC would receive. We have been notified by Bergen County that they will retain all allocated doses from the NJDOH and that no vaccines will be provided to local clinics for the foreseeable future.
NWBRHC believes delivering vaccines to both the county and local clinics is the best way to meet our community members' needs for vaccination and will continue to strive toward this goal. Due to this recent decision, we are urging our residents to seek appointments elsewhere. Please know, we will continue to monitor the vaccine allocation system and will provide updates when we are able to reliably establish local clinics for our communities.
The New Jersey Call Center number is 1-855-568-0545. The call center offers 250 live agents that will assist with vaccine registration.
Gina M. Behre, MS, HO, REHS
FROM: Gina Behre, Health Officer
SUBJECT: Covid-19 Vaccine Availability
DATE: January 27, 2021
As of this date, the vaccine effort in Bergen County is still targeting people in the 1A category/tier (high-risk health workers and first responders). The decision by the Federal and State Governments to expand the program to seniors aged 65 and older, and to those 16-64 years of age with underlying illness, has created much confusion for the public during the vaccine shortage. Northwest Bergen Regional Health Commission is working with all of our contracted communities to provide COVID vaccine updates, education and guidance. This is the latest information with regard to Covid-19 vaccinations:
- The vaccine is being allocated to the local health departments by the County Executive’s Office. NWBRHC has been approved as a vaccine provider and has been allocated a very small amount of Moderna vaccine in the upcoming week. I am planning a closed pod in Mahwah for 1A First Responders only. This is due to our limited vaccine supply.
- In addition to registering on the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System on the State’s website, I am encouraging residents to also sign up directly at the Bergen County sites that offer their own registrations, hoping they will receive vaccine soon. I have attached a document with the appropriate web addresses.
- We are promoting the State Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Support Center, 1-855-568-0545. 250 live agents were hired to help people register for the vaccine, and to answer their questions about the vaccine or their registrations. This is key for people who do not have email addresses or internet access. The phone line is open from 8am to 8pm 7 days a week. The average hold time is 10 minutes. The Call Center will eventually support vaccine appointments as the vaccine becomes more readily available.
- We are encouraging our towns to facilitate communication with their volunteers to work with our senior population to assist in the registration process.
It is my hope that as more vaccine providers (such as Johnson and Johnson) are approved, this process will take off exponentially. In the interim, we have to be patient and work with what we are given. Even as we continue to mask up, practice social distancing and washing our hands, the light at the end of the tunnel begins to burn brighter.
Gina Behre, MS, HO, REHS