Statement from Princeton health officer regarding COVID-19 vaccine shortage

The Princeton Health Department released a statement on Tuesday afternoon regarding the shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine and the lack of appointment availability.

Health Officer Jeff Grosser reported that his office is currently experiencing a high volume of calls and emails about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, but all appointments are booked for the amount of vaccine the municipality has on hand right now.

“At this time, there are some important developments that are going to slow the process of distributing the vaccine. The most significant of those developments is the recent acknowledgment by the federal government that for the moment, there is a shortage of vaccine,” Grosser said. “This unfortunate news comes at a time where our state has ramped up efforts to get shots into people’s arms by creating over 300 clinics, mobilizing a substantial vaccination force of volunteers and paid personnel to staff them, only to have those efforts impeded by this unexpected turn of events.”

Grosser said the good news is that prior to this temporary shortage, the Mercer County Public Health Officers’ Association held clinics that vaccinated many eligible people. “Upon Governor Murphy’s announcement last Wednesday expanding access, eligible persons on various established waitlists were notified in order and made appointments based on the number of available vaccine doses on hand,” Grosser wrote. “This process has accommodated as many eligible people as our supply of vaccine on hand can accommodate. The slow vaccine rollout is a national issue impacting our statewide distribution efforts and affecting all of us.”

Grosser said the when the state expanded vaccine eligibility last week, local and state vaccine clinics were overwhelmed with people trying to make appointments. “Even as the Mercer County vaccination clinic at Mercer County Community College is expected to have its soft opening later this week, Although the shortage of vaccines continues to slow its distribution into the arms of eligible people The Mercer County site is expected to receive 800 doses per week,” Grosser wrote. “Currently, the state is receiving vaccine doses in increments of 100,000 doses per week, while state officials point out that the state had been expecting a supply of 400,000 doses per week to meet our demand by now.”

Another component of the rollout that has been slower than anticipated is the federal component seeing to the distribution of vaccines to the residents and staff of our long-term care centers, Grosser said. Those vaccinations are being handled by CVS and Walgreens.

“Local clinics will again be scheduled when we receive the doses to administer,” Grosser said. Local opportunities will be announced when they are available and people on the municipality’s waitlist will receive emails, he said.

“We will also share information about vaccine availability at sites throughout our region that we become aware of,” he said. “Currently four of six of New Jersey’s Mega Clinics are operating. The remaining two are expected to be up and running soon.”
Residents of the state who have preregistered for a vaccine through the state’s web portal will be notified via emails from the state about locations to schedule an appointment as they become available.

Editor’s notes: Check our crowdsourced N.J. vaccination site information page for updates about individual sites across the state at https://bit.ly/crowdsourcevaccineinfonj. More than 3,000 residents have visited the page in the 18 hours it has been online. Thanks to readers who have shared information about individual sites and how to make appointments. Most sites are out of the vaccine currently. The mega-site in Burlington County is booking appointments for May as of Jan. 19.

A spokesman for Mercer County Community College said Tuesday that the college is not taking appointments for vaccination clinics and that the clinics at the end of the month are not open to the general public. He said it’s not clear what the future will be for clinics at the site. The county will also open a vaccination clinic at the CURE Arena but details still have not been provided. Stay tuned for more information.

Area residents who have called the state’s COVID-19 hotline tell Planet Princeton that they have been told hotline workers can’t help them with scheduling issues.