Vaccine inequity rears its ugly head as New Jersey denies vaccine to one county

SALEM COUNTY, NJ –  Governor Phil Murphy acknowledged he has a vaccine problem on Friday when he confirmed for the first time that a complaint coming from Salem County was true.  County officials only received 100 doses of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.  In an attempt to ensure vaccine equity, the Murphy administration has created an inadvertent critical vaccine inequity for residents living in Salem with a population of 62,385 residents.  If doses were given out strictly by census population figures, Salem County should have received over 750 doses in their first delivery.

In a letter sent by the Salem County Commissioners on Thursday, the Salem County Department of Health has said they administered all 100 doses contained in their first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine.

“However, our request for additional COVID-19 vaccine was denied last week by New Jersey Department of Health,” the Board of Commissioners wrote to the Governor. “Salem County cannot meet the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the population if the State of New Jersey does not give us the tools to do so. Our department has put in a request for additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in order to begin vaccinating eligible residents next week. We are expected to find out the exact ship date, and quantity by tomorrow, Friday, January 15th, 2021.”

Murphy on Friday acknowledged the problem.

“John Burzichelli, to his credit, reached out to me over the weekend and Salem County and our team got on it. I don’t have any specifics, Brian beyond that, but I know we were focused on it. Judy, anything you’ve got? Can we get back to you on that? It’s a concern that we know exists and it was raised with us and we put our folks on it, and we’ll come back to you if we could,” Murphy said.

“As soon as the New Jersey Department of Health notifies our department of the exact amount of vaccine we are scheduled to receive, we will provide the phone number and hours of operation for a call center where residents can call to schedule an appointment for an upcoming vaccination clinic,” the county said in a statement.  “This information will be posted on our website and social media pages early next week. Several vaccination clinics will be scheduled in various areas around Salem County. We understand how difficult this situation is and are working diligently to ensure that Salem County receives additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. We thank all our residents for their continued patience and understanding during these unprecedented times.”

Until Salem County gets their fair share of vaccines, officials will direct eligible residents to nearby locations outside of the county.

“We will continue to help individuals find vaccination clinics within the area until Salem County receives additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Salem County Department of Health and Human Services encourages individuals to seek the COVID-19 vaccine at mega sites, grocery stores, and pharmacies, even if those locations are outside of Salem County,” the county said.

To pre-register for the COIVD-19 vaccine please visit www.covidvaccine.nj.gov. The state is currently developing a phone number for individuals who do not have access to a computer. Once the phone number is made available, The Salem County Department of Health and Human Services will update our website, post on social media, and send a Teleminder message to senior citizens through the Salem County Office on Aging and Disability.  Also, Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers are offering COVID-19 vaccine, please visit https://www.sjfmc.org/covid-19-vaccine-request-form/ or call 1-609-481-3069 to make an appointment.