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New Jersey residents clamoring for COVID-19 vaccine, but supply can't meet demand
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New Jersey residents clamoring for COVID-19 vaccine, but supply can't meet demand

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Eligible residents throughout the state are clamoring to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, but none is available as demand is far outpacing supply.

“I have called so many places, all the things in Ocean County. And then I went on the Virtua (web)site and the Cooper (web)site. A friend of mine is a doctor in Marlton, and he was saying look other places. I’ve called so many places,” said Cindy Van Lunen, 63, a cancer patient who lives on Long Beach Island.

After eligibility was expanded Wednesday to 4 million New Jerseyans, state officials acknowledged Friday that New Jersey’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines cannot keep up with demand, with residents across the state furiously looking for appointments and confused on where to turn next.

Van Lunen was one of more than 100 people across New Jersey who called a Press of Atlantic City reporter Friday looking for more information on how to get a vaccine or make an appointment at the Atlantic City Convention Center mega site, one of six large-scale vaccination clinics opening across the state this month. The Atlantic City site has not yet opened.

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the supply issues at his regular COVID-19 briefing Friday, noting the state has received nowhere near the level of vaccines needed from the federal government.

“What is clear is that we’re ready to move forward with an aggressive expansion of our vaccination efforts,” Murphy said. “We have residents ready to roll up their sleeves. … However, we just need the supply from the feds to meet that demand, and it has become increasingly apparent that we are ready and they are not.”

It would take 470,000 doses a week to meet demand, but the state receives about 100,000 vaccine doses per week, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

In Ocean County, Public Health Officer Daniel Regenye said so many people attempted to log on to the county website Wednesday, after it was announced that eligibility was expanding, that the system crashed.

“We had a couple hundred thousand people go to our website,” he said.

The county has been operating a vaccination center at Toms River High School North for several weeks and, as of Thursday evening, surpassed distributing 5,200 vaccines. He said the county gives about 800 shots a day.

Within minutes of the announcement Wednesday, all 25,000 appointments through the end of February were filled. Because of that, the county is working to expand appointment availability, but that is largely based on staffing and vaccine supply. Regenye expects more appointments to be available beginning this week.

“The need, the want, the demand is certainly there. I think there are a lot of people who are very much into getting vaccinated, and we very much want to get them the vaccine,” Regenye said.

He said anyone who already has an appointment and successfully schedules another appointment at a closer date should not forget to cancel their initial appointment, freeing the later spot up for another eligible resident.

Atlantic County is hosting a vaccination site at Atlantic Cape Community College, and officials there said they have also been inundated with calls regarding vaccination.

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County Executive Dennis Levinson said many of those calling have been homebound seniors.

“But unfortunately we still have only a limited supply of vaccine to provide,” county spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said.

She said the county’s vaccination appointments are booked for Tuesday through Thursday, but that if more vaccines become available, more slots will open.

Margaret Joseph, 71, of Atco in Camden County, said she has a vaccine appointment for April 27 and cannot get one sooner. She said she has been trying everywhere for herself and her husband, with no luck.

“I’m so upset,” she said. “I get all the vaccines, the flu shot, everything. I just believe it protects you. I think that if everyone would get one of these vaccines, we could maybe open up the country again. And I’d really like to travel again.”

Joseph, who is pre-registered on the state’s New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System, said appointments for some vaccine sites were filling up so fast that she would get through the registration process online only to be told her desired appointment was no longer available.

Patricia Czarnecki, 72, of Manahawkin, said she and her husband, who is 81, have been trying every day to get a vaccine. They have pre-registered with the state but are unsure what happens next.

“You put your name on a list, and no one knows what the follow-up will be,” Czarnecki said. “At this point, I don’t even care where I get it. Convenience would be nice, but now it doesn’t matter.”

Sharon Parnes, 71, of Cherry Hill, said she called the reporter’s contact number listed on a Press story about the vaccine mega site hoping to connect with the Atlantic City Convention Center.

“Our daughter lives in Linwood, and she’s been trying to help us find a vaccine. Our idea was call everywhere,” Parnes said. “We’ve been looking online to try to find out where we can get vaccinated, and either there’s no contact information at a site or sites are full.”

Parnes said it was a hopeful sign that so many people are trying to get vaccinated.

“Because that will mean less spread of the virus and fewer infections, and that will be good for all of us,” she said.

Persichilli said some vaccine sites are not integrated with the state’s scheduling system and can be contacted directly to make an appointment even before receiving an email from the state.

The state has a list of sites, websites and phone numbers organized by county on its website.

Persichilli also said Friday a hotline for people to call and get pre-registered will be released shortly.

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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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