Burlington County residents can receive free COVID and booster vaccines at a new mega-site in the East Gate Square shopping center in Mount Laurel.
According to Virtua Health, the site provides COVID vaccines to anyone who is eligible, including people ages 12 and up who are not yet vaccinated, adults who are eligible for a vaccine booster shot and children ages 5 to 11. It offers recommended lower dose shots and smaller needles for children.
Phyllis Worrell, vaccine clinic manager, explained that the vaccine area is separated into two sides: a pediatric one for children 5 to 11 and an adult side for people 12 and up.
“That is mostly for safety reasons,” she explained, “so we make sure that people are getting the dose that they need for their family member.”
After a shot, residents will be asked to wait in an observation area for 15 minutes. Children will be given coloring books.
Worrell said the mega-site offers the Pfizer vaccine every day in both the pediatric and adult doses, while Moderna booster shots are available every Tuesday.
According to Virtua, those 18 and older who received an initial series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines qualify for a booster six months or more after their original doses. Those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago or more are also eligible for a booster.
Worrell said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently authorized mixing and matching vaccines for the booster dose.
“In general, somebody coming in for their very first dose, we’re going to offer the Pfizer, because that’s what we do every single day and that really is the vaccine that we’re most familiar with,” she noted.
The mega site is open Tuesday through Saturday and hours vary by day. Residents are encouraged to make an appointment by visiting www.virtua.org/vaccine. Those previously vaccinated must bring a CDC card. No health insurance information is required.
For those squeamish about the shots, therapy dogs from the Tri-State Canine Response Team are available in the vaccination and observation areas.
“Sometimes there is a lot of anxiety that’s associated with getting the vaccine, so they’re there to also try to help alleviate that,” said Worrell.
Paramedic Elaine Dinunzi explained that people with special needs can receive the vaccine in a sensory room. A COVID mega-site was previously located at the Moorestown Mall.
“One of the most rewarding things at the other site was how many people we actually were able to bring in and vaccinate who hadn’t been vaccinated in so many years,” she said.
Burlington County Commissioner Dan O’Connell is hopeful residents will utilize the mega-site.
“We’re seeing, unfortunately, stories with the transmission rates, hospitalizations and ventilator use all going in the wrong direction,” he said. “This is the antidote for that.”