OCEAN COUNTY is preparing to distribute its first 1,500 doses of the COVID 19 vaccine from Moderna to health care workers in the County.
Under a partnership with 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, distribution will begin shortly after the arrival of the vaccine.
The vaccinations will be given at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena at Toms River High School North, Toms River, by appointment only to those in the state and federal designation phase 1A, which includes health care workers. Vaccinations for health care workers are expected to start on Tuesday, Dec. 29 and will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 29, 30 and 31.
"Our plan is to open our vaccination clinic at the health arena at 9 a.m., Dec. 29," said Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regenye.
"This will kick off what we expect to be months of COVID 19 vaccine clinics throughout Ocean County," said Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Health Department. "We have been working with the state and our partners on the logistics of how to handle the distribution. It's imperative this is done correctly."
To make an appointment for the vaccine, health care workers can check the Ocean County Health Department website at OCHD.org for the vaccine appointment system.
Regenye said that making an appointment will follow a similar procedure to making an appointment for the coronavirus testing site at Ocean County College, Toms River.
"We anticipate providing up to 300 vaccines a day," he said. "With 1,500 doses that will take about 5 days to complete," He said. "It's important that we adhere to the schedule developed by the federal government and the state Department of Health.
"While we expect the demand will be high, there is a process we are required to follow," he said. "Hopefully the supply of vaccine will continue to increase quickly and distribution will do the same."
Regenye said the 1,500 doses are specifically for health care workers (paid and unpaid) that did not receive the vaccine at area hospitals or at long term care facilities and includes public health care workers, school nurses, emergency medical technicians and emergency medical services among others.
Regenye said the health department has a long standing relationship with Toms River Regional Schools and school administration is in full support of the use of their facility.
"We have used this facility as a site for our flu clinics," Regenye said. "They are a key part of the partnership that will help make this a success."
Regenye noted the health department has already made arrangements to open additional vaccinations sites throughout the County including Southern Ocean County.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy, who is the county's emergency management coordinator, said his office will be providing facility signage for easy navigation at the vaccination site as well as facility security and temperature monitoring at the site to insure the safety and health of clinic workers and participants.
Regenye said the health department has hired more than 50 nurses to help give the vaccinations.
"We are well positioned to be set up to distribute the vaccine whether it be at the arena or the future clinics that we will have," Regenye said.
He added that while the general public is waiting on the vaccine, following some simple steps like wearing a mask, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying away from large crowds will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
"We have to continue to make every effort to stop the spread of the virus," he said.
Regenye said large scale vaccinations are part of the health department's emergency plan.
He noted during the H1N1 outbreak, the health department distributed in excess of 30,000 shots. And, at its height, the department had provided upwards of 45,000 flu vaccinations.
Moderna's COVID 19 vaccine, mRNA-1273 which was given FDA approval will be given in two doses. An appointment will be scheduled for the second dose upon the completion of the first one.
"Our residents are ready for the vaccine and the end of the coronavirus," said Freeholder Little, who is expected to serve as Deputy Director of what will be the Ocean County Board of Commissioners starting Jan. 1. "Our partners are ready to make this happen."
Since March, Ocean County has had 29,274 cases of the coronavirus and almost 1,200 residents have died from it.
"This has been a very difficult time for all of us," said Freeholder Gary Quinn, who is expected to serve as the 2021 Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. "We are working diligently to meet the challenge and we are hopeful this vaccine will bring this pandemic under control."
Questions about the COVID vaccine can be directed to the Ocean County Health Department COVID hotline at 732-341-9700, Ext. 7411. Updated information can also be found on the Health Department's Facebook page at facebook.com/ochd.org and its website at OCHD.org.