FEMA vaccine sites coming to hard-hit New Jersey cities

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Preparations are underway in the New Jersey cities chosen to host community vaccine sites in partnership with the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Action News spoke to leaders in two of the cities - Trenton and Vineland - about the impact this will have on their communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19.

Many of Reverend Doctor John Harris' virtual sermons lately have been about COVID and vaccines. The pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Trenton hasn't held in-person worship since last year.

He's concerned about the equitable distribution of vaccines.

"Blacks and people of color are being left out for one reason or another and I didn't want that to take place," said Harris.

He's trying to get as many congregants as possible vaccinated, spreading the word about the upcoming community vaccine clinic supported by the City of Trenton, the state and FEMA.

"I made a robocall to the Galileans today. I even have my deacons going around to the members who are assigned to them, knocking on doors and calling them on the phone," said Harris.

Last week Gov. Phil Murphy announced these community vaccine sites would be coming to 10 hard-hit cities in New Jersey, adding that these sites will only be for members of these communities.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora says they're working to fill 3,000 vaccine appointments with the help of local places of worship.

"This is a really good way to have a dialogue, not only with the faith-based community but with average Trentonians who might not ordinarily have access to these vaccines," said Gusciora.

Officials say the sites will be open for two weeks, and then return later for second doses.

Trenton's community site is expected to open this weekend at one of the city's churches. The exact location has not been disclosed.

Vineland is another city that will host a community site with FEMA.

Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci says details are still being worked out with the state, but he anticipates the site will open the first week in March.

He says city officials have worked hard to fight distrust in the vaccine, especially among older residents.

"They're afraid of vaccines, they're afraid of medicines, they're not about that unless it's emergent. But I do see a lot of those folks turning now and saying, 'This is one we think we really need to take,'" said Fanucci.

The City of Vineland has set up a COVID-19 hotline. Fanucci said starting Wednesday residents can call to make an appointment at the upcoming FEMA site: (856) 405-4603
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.