Deputy Mayor Dafis: Local Vaccinations for Health Care Workers Should Commence Dec. 26

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — On Dec. 18, Local and Essex County elected officials and health officers toured the Essex County Vaccination Site where Maplewood and South Orange residents will be vaccinated. In addition, residents of Belleville, Livingston, Newark, Orange, and Millburn will get their inoculations there as well; the entire first floor of the former Sears store in the Livingston Mall will be utilized.

“We’re at the beginning of the end, and we’re really excited,” Maplewood Health Officer Candace Davenport told TAPinto SOMA after the visit. “This is super hopeful. Really hopeful.”

“I thought it was incredible,” said Maplewood Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis of the space in the same Zoom interview. It is a “tremendous organizational effort put together to vaccinate seven towns.”

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 “In the beginning, it’s only health care workers and first responders who are going to have the opportunity to register to be vaccinated,” said Dafis, who also serves as the president of Maplewood’s Board of Health. Seniors and residents of long term care facilities will be next, and after that, the rest of the public. 

“It is coming, but there won’t be enough for everybody just yet,” added Davenport. “So we really want to get the people who are going to be around sick people [vaccinated] so that they’re protected and don’t take it home to their families.”

The site will start out vaccinating up to 250 people per day, said Dafis. “But that’s going to go up nearly 10-fold by the time we’re talking about general population, you know, in March, April, May, when the vaccine will be even more widely available.” By then people will also be coming back for their second dose of the vaccine. 

It is important to remember, noted Dafis, that “you are not vaccinated until you’ve had both doses,” and so maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing needs to remain a priority.

Davenport agreed. When the vaccines were in clinical trials, the FDA did not require testing to see if the coronavirus can continue to be transmitted by a person after they are immune. “So the reason why we have to continue to wear our masks is because we just don’t know. We don’t have the data, but hopefully that will be the case… [but] in the clinical trials, we didn’t test that to affirm that we can’t.”

Appointments will be made through the website. Currently, appointments are not yet available. The scheduling feature should go live soon, said Dafis, as vaccinations are expected to commence Dec. 26 with the Moderna two-dose vaccine. When someone schedules their first shot, they will automatically be scheduled for their second dose 28 days later, he added.

The county will not be offering transportation to the site. “We’re recommending that people go there with their own vehicle, that will promote social distancing,” said Davenport. There is also public transportation to the Livingston Mall from the South Orange-Maplewood area. 

Access Link by NJ Transit also offers transportation “that is senior and disabled accessible to get there if needed as an option,” added Dafis. Down the road, Dafis said, there could be a local jitney to the site but details have yet to be determined.

Dafis and Davenport are appreciative of each other’s efforts toward getting the vaccination ball rolling. 

“She’s a leader within the county,” Dafis said. Although Essex County Health Officer Maya Lordo “definitely deserves a major, major thumbs up for putting this together,” Dafis said Davenport and Anna Markarova, public health nurse, make a “formidable” team and have forwarded the county’s efforts immensely. “Candace has gotten us answers to questions before anyone else. And Candace has anticipated questions and issues before the county even knew” to ask them.

Davenport returned the compliment, saying that Dafis is “a really strong board of health liaison. Most townships do not seem to have the support or that advocate. So it’s just amazing work that Dean has done to highlight the work of the health department.”




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