COVID-19 vaccine megasite opens at Rowan College of South Jersey

DEPTFORD TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- People trickled in and out of designated buildings at Rowan College of South Jersey on Friday morning, but they weren't students going to class, they were people receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Thursday marked the beginning of phase 1B for vaccine distribution in New Jersey. Under 1B, law-enforcement workers, fire professionals (both paid and volunteer), and first responders are all eligible for vaccines along with people age 75 and older.

Jay Alderton, a career firefighter with Morristown, looked forward to getting the vaccine from the moment he was told he'd be eligible.

"COVID-19 has added a whole new layer of uncertainty and change for us all," he said during a scheduled tour of the vaccination site at Rockaway Townsquare.

That location is also designated as a megasite for New Jersey vaccine distribution. In all, there will eventually be six megasites opened in New Jersey.

"The team here has the capacity to handle 2,400 vaccinations a day," said Governor Phil Murphy.

A media representative with the New Jersey Health Department noted, though, that right now the megasites can vaccinate about 1,000 people per day. The goal is to work towards vaccinating up to 2,400 people per day.

The Morris County site that Murphy visited Friday morning is a 30,000 square-foot lower floor of the former Sears store at the Townsquare Mall. It features 20 vaccine stations.

Several areas are marked off for vaccine recipients to wait 10 or 15 minutes while being observed for any side effects.

"It actually hurt less than the flu shot," said Alderton. "It's an honor to be able to get it."

Murphy says it's important that first responders and police and fire personnel be vaccinated because they are often in situations that expose them to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

"They have been the ones responding to calls of large parties or other super-spreader gatherings where compliance with masking and common sense was low," said Murphy.

People in all phases of the vaccine distribution are required to make appointments. They can pre-register to be notified when they are eligible for a vaccine by visiting the website COVID19.nj.gov. The site also lists more than 200 satellite locations that are distributing vaccines.

After group 1B is vaccinated, the state moves to phase 1C. People to be vaccinated in that group include essential workers, adults 65 and over, and people ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions. There is no designated start date yet for phase 1C.

Once higher-risk groups are vaccinated, New Jersey will move to phase 2 which includes the general public. Officials anticipate possibly reaching that phase by April or May.
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