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Atlantic City Convention Center COVID-19 vaccine site to open Friday
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Atlantic City Convention Center COVID-19 vaccine site to open Friday

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Atlanticare

AtlantiCare nurse Maureen Watson, right, administers a COVID-19 vaccination to Katelyn Heck, a patient care associate nursing support worker, in December.

ATLANTIC CITY — Health officials at AtlantiCare are preparing to begin giving COVID-19 vaccinations Friday at the Atlantic City Convention Center but cautioned the public to be ready for a slow rollout.

“There will be a very small trickle of vaccine that is coming into this community. We will do everything in our power to get it into every arm that we can,” AtlantiCare President and CEO Lori Herndon said Wednesday during a virtual town hall sponsored by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

The Atlantic City mega site, one of six in the state, is anticipated to vaccinate between 2,500 and 3,500 people per day, but Herndon said that capacity will not be available immediately as vaccine supply from the federal government is still limited.

Herndon and Dr. Manish Trivedi, director of AtlantiCare’s Division of Infectious Diseases and chair of the Infection Prevention Committee, answered questions about the vaccine rollout, how the vaccine works and who should get it.

Herndon said the mega site will not be open for walk-up appointments, so those wishing to receive the vaccine should register online through the state’s Vaccine Scheduling System. Atlantic City’s site has not been added yet, but she anticipated it to be added by sometime Thursday.

“What will happen is you will register online, you’ll come in and there will be another registration step,” Herndon said.

Forty National Guardsmen will be responsible for the administrative side of the mega site, and the Atlantic City Police Department also will assist.

“It’s very well organized. There’s a process to make it through with social distancing,” Herndon said. “As a nurse, I have no concerns that you should feel worried that you’re going to be exposed (to COVID-19).”

She said parking will be available in the garage under the Convention Center.

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“It’s not going to be fun and easy this first week, but we have to get through it so we can rev up the engine and hopefully the vaccines will start to flow from the federal government,” Herndon said.

Currently, the state has opened up vaccinations to about 4 million people, but so far has received just under 700,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from the federal government.

Each week, the state is sent an additional 100,000 doses, but Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday during his regular COVID-19 response briefing that he expects those numbers to increase under President Joe Biden.

As of Wednesday, 421,297 vaccine doses had been administered, state data show.

One major concern for Herndon and Trivedi was access to vaccines for those who are homebound or have mobility issues. Herndon said she has reached out to the state for more information on how AtlantiCare will help facilitate vaccination for those people.

“I think many of our social service partners will see this as an opportunity,” Herndon said.

Trivedi answered general questions about the vaccine, including when to get tested: anytime you’ve had a known exposure or are experiencing symptoms, but not too soon after exposure because the virus can take several days to incubate in the body.

“One of the biggest hallmarks of COVID-19 is loss of taste and smell,” he said, noting many of the other symptoms of the virus overlap with allergies, cold and flu symptoms.

Regardless, he said anyone experiencing any symptoms or with known exposure should be tested.

Trivedi said the COVID-19 vaccine has a great efficacy rate — between 94% and 95% — compared to vaccines for other diseases such as the flu, but there is still much to understand about how long immunity will last after being fully inoculated.

He said it was important to get accurate information into the community about the vaccine to relieve any anxiety.

Contact: 609-272-7251

CLowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

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Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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