The vaccine is here, and Camden County officials are working diligently to ensure that every resident has access to it.
“This has been a huge undertaking — something we never expected to have to do,” said Camden County Commissioner Carmen G. Rodriguez, who serves as the liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services.
While it may not have been something officials anticipated last year at this time, the county certainly has been spending the last year preparing for the rollout. Rodriguez said as the county has dealt with the ongoing pandemic, it has developed strategies for the vaccination process. Even prior to COVID, the county ran flu clinics, which Rodriguez said gave the county some experience in finding nurses and administering vaccines.
She explained that setting up testing sites was one way the county was already prepared to organize vaccine sites. When COVID made face-to-face contact impossible, county officials opened drive-up sites to residents. Rodriguez said those sites made officials rethink how to train staff, what software was being used and what resources the county could implement to keep everyone safe.
As they began thinking about how to administer 2020 flu vaccines, county officials tried to model flu clinics in a way that would resemble COVID clinics, according to Rodriguez. By that point, she added, county officials knew the vaccine was imminent and that it would come with a freezing requirement, so officials also factored that into their logistics.
As it stands, the Camden County Board of Commissioners, in a joint effort with Cooper University Health Care and Jefferson Health, began vaccinating people at the Camden County Vaccination Center at Camden County College – Blackwood Campus. Vaccinations are currently done in phases, and residents can register to get vaccinated at https://www.camdencounty.com/vaccineregistration.
Rodriguez said when the site went live, the county’s phone lines were exploding with calls from people about getting vaccinated. The county’s next step is to stay in contact with the state Department of Health and follow its directives.
“(Camden County) cannot go any faster than the state allows us to go,” Rodriguez advised. “Whenever the state allows us to take the next population, we will immediately start taking that population.”
The county is receiving shipments of vaccines, but not with regularity, so officials are being careful not to schedule people for vaccinations they can’t deliver on.
“We’ve been fortunate so far,” Rodriguez noted. “No vaccines wasted. No one turned away.”
When the county reaches full vaccine quantities, the site will be able to vaccinate up to 1,000 people a day, many more than the current couple of hundred, given vaccine quantities.
Rodriguez said if Camden County can get all of its requested vaccines, the possibility exists that a high percentage of residents could be vaccinated before summer.
“That depends entirely on vaccines being produced and shipped to our state and receiving them,” she added.
As of Jan. 20, vaccinations are available by appointment only to members of the Phase 1A population, and exceptions in the 1B population involving firefighters and law enforcement. To learn more or to schedule a vaccine appointment, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/vaccineregistration.