Murphy praises Kearny COVID-19 vaccination site as county covets more doses

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Gov. Phil Murphy (D) offered praise of Hudson County’s COVID-19 vaccination site after paying a visit to the Kearny location this morning as local dignitaries are seeking more doses as supplies become scarce.

“New Jersey is committed to an equitable distribution process of the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that those most at risk are first in line to be vaccinated,” Murphy, who didn’t take questions from the press this morning, said in a statement this afternoon.

“We can only accomplish this through partnerships with our local and county governments and I applaud County Executive Tom DeGise and his team for supporting our state’s aggressive vaccination efforts.”

In an interview, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said that the county site, the USS Juneau Center, located at 110 Hackensack Ave. in Kearny, administered over 1,200 vaccinations on Friday and now has just 1,300 for this entire week.

“We’re not going to be able to match what we know we can do: we can do better than 1,200, but we need the dosages,” he said.

On Friday, The Jersey Journal reported that the state was removing themselves from the vaccination process in Hudson County, leaving local officials to deal with the federal government directly.

DeGise said they’re up for the challenge, noting that they were successfully able to allocate CARES Act funding for rental assistance and small business relief.

When asked if he was provided any specific reasons why the New Jersey Department of Health decided to take this step, DeGise responded “I think they figured the counties could do it better,” also citing a need to know the communities being served.

NJ DOH Commissioner Judy Persichilli didn’t provide any specific details related to Hudson County’s situation, explaining that each county-run facility in New Jersey asks the state for vaccination allocations which they then distribute based on what they receive from the federal government.

When questioned further about the vaccine shortage throughout the state, Persichilli said that in the last four weeks, the NJ DOH received 53,000 doses each from Pfizer and Moderna, for a total of 106,000.

“We try to allocate it as best possible, but we don’t have enough,” she said.

U.S. Reps. Albio Sires (D-8) and Bill Pascrell (D-9) also paid a visit to West Hudson this morning and joined in commending DeGise and his team for their efforts.

“County Executive Tom DeGise has done a tremendous job in providing for Hudson County during these difficult times and we will continue to fight in Washington for additional vaccinations until they are in the arms of every American,” Sires said in a statement.

Additionally, county officials said this afternoon that the county-run operation has administered 5,671 first vaccine doses, along with 152 second doses, of the vaccine at the Juneau Center as of Monday – with 305 set to receive vaccinations before the end of Tuesday.

Furthermore, the county as a whole has just 3,500 vaccines overall, or 2,200 for the 12 municipalities, for the rest of the week.

Kearny Mayor Al Santos, whose municipal vaccination site is being run separately from the county’s at the local high school, expressed frustration with his current predicament in a Facebook post this afternoon.

“We’ll vaccinate 100 persons at this location by early this afternoon. Doesn’t look busy, right? We could do TWICE the number, but we didn’t get more vaccine! We have more than adequate staffing to assist with registration, nurses for vaccination, and EMTs for observation, and a large room to separate the different groups,” he wrote.

“We also can’t schedule any more clinics until the State of NJ and Hudson County supply the Kearny Health Dept with more vaccine.”

He also pointed out that the Juneau Center is about five-and-a-half miles from the nearest Kearny residential home and can’t be reached via public transportation.