ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – Morris County and Atlantic Health System officials Friday joined Governor Phil Murphy in a huge step forward in the fight against COVID-19 by officially opening the doors to the Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center.
This facility, housed in a former Sears store at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, will eventually deliver thousands of doses of vaccine a week in accordance with the phased eligibility system provided by the State of New Jersey.
Currently open to all phase 1A health care workers, law enforcement officers and firefighters, the COVID-19 Vaccination Center or “mega site” will deliver vaccinations using the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. Reservations will be made using an on-line registration form, a link to which can be found at the Atlantic Health System website. Appointments for second doses will be made on-site (the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose approximately four weeks after the initial dose).
“The arrival of safe and effective vaccines represents a landmark moment in our fight against COVID-19, making this center a place of hope and healing for our entire region,” said Brian Gragnolati, President and CEO, Atlantic Health System. “On behalf of patients and caregivers across New Jersey, I want to thank Governor Murphy and Morris County leaders for their tremendous support and partnership. Together, we are taking the next big step forward in protecting our friends, neighbors and communities. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to receive their vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.”
“This is a tremendous logistical undertaking by Morris County in partnership with Atlantic Health System and the State of New Jersey. Our Offices of Public Health and Emergency Management worked tirelessly through the holiday season with Atlantic Health to identify and transform an empty retail space into a large scale, safe, secure regional vaccination facility,” said Stephen H. Shaw, Director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners. “Morris County remains steadfast in its commitment to allocate the resources necessary to protect the public health. We anticipate being able to inoculate as many as 2,400 individuals daily at this facility. Our thanks go out to Atlantic Health for its contributions of staff and assets, Governor Murphy for his support, everyone in our Offices of Public Health and Emergency Management, the National Guard, our Sheriff and all the healthcare workers who have made this possible.”
The first floor, 30,000 square feet of the former Sears store, was converted from shuttered retail space to a vaccination mega site in less than four weeks. Initially able to administer one
thousand doses per week (contingent on vaccine supply), the Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center will be open from 7:00am to 2:00pm, Monday through Friday. The goal is to eventually be able to administer 2,400 doses per day (contingent on vaccine supply), from 7:00am to 7:00pm, seven days a week.
“Throughout this pandemic, our first responders have continued to save lives and protect our communities, and I am proud today that we are able to provide them with this added level of protection as they continue to do their jobs,” Murphy said. “When we’re ready to move forward, this site will serve as one of six megasites for the general public to receive their vaccinations. With hundreds of thousands of preregistrations already received, we know there will be a strong demand when that day arrives.”
All sworn law enforcement and fire professionals in New Jersey are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is estimated to include about 55,000 individuals. These first responders are the first individuals in Phase 1B to become eligible for vaccination. EMS professionals, also considered first responders, are already eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1A as health care workers.
“We’re all used to charging head-on into potentially dangerous situations, but COVID-19 has added a whole new layer of uncertainty and change for all of us,” said John Alderton, a career firefighter and EMT with the Morris Township Fire Department. “This vaccine is the first step of us moving in the right direction. Thank you Governor Murphy for bringing this vaccine to not only first responders, but hopefully in the near future, to every New Jersey resident.”
To help ensure the safety of everyone inside, the building features 16 air purifiers that turn over the air every nine minutes. An estimated 100 county workers, Atlantic Health team members, sheriff’s officers and National Guard are on site today and their ranks are expected to expand to 150 when the center is at full capacity (contingent on vaccine supply).
The Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center is one of six mega sites planned for New Jersey, with other locations in Gloucester County (Rowan College of South Jersey in Sewell – also scheduled to open today), East Rutherford (The Meadowlands), Edison (New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center), Burlington County (The Moorestown Mall) and Atlantic City (The Atlantic City Convention Center).
Joining Commissioner Shaw, Gragnolati and Gov. Murphy in a tour of the facility that was led by Scott DiGiralomo, Morris County Director of Law and Public Safety, were state Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, Attorney General Gurbir Grewa, Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (11th Dist).