NEWARK, NJ – The absence of lines tells the story.
In late March, after the launch, hundreds of people lined up at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s COVID-19 vaccination center in Newark. More than 6,200 doses were given on that first day. Now, a little over a month later, few people show up to get vaccinated each day.
According to Essex County statistics, the weekly average of vaccines administered on April 24 at Essex County College in Newark, one of two county-run locations in the city, was 417 vaccinations. The weekly average on May 1st was 133 vaccinations. The number of appointments planned in the same period decreased from 3,211 to 850.
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“That’s all we get now,” a Newark police officer said to the beat, watching the scene. “It is what it is.”
Newark hit a vaccine wall where there is more supply than demand. Anyone wanting a vaccine in Newark can now get one in a variety of locations without an appointment.
The problem of vaccine hesitation is not unique to Newark. Nationwide, the rate of vaccine administration has slowed, peaking on April 8, and has declined steadily since then. Nationwide, the seven-day average reached a high of almost 3.3 million on April 11 and has steadily declined since then. According to the CDC, the seven-day average as of April 30 was 2.1 million doses.
In New Jersey, about 46% of the state’s 6.9 million adults are fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the Department of Health. The state has a 70% vaccination target by the end of June, a point at which the state would achieve what is known as herd immunity.
Fully vaccinated means people have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
By comparison, only 16.57% of Newark residents are fully vaccinated as of April 21. This is based on the latest statistics provided to TAPinto Newark by the Newark Department of Health and Wellness in the community.
“People are afraid of the unknown,” said urban-resident Tyvone Taylor. “They’re scared to take the vaccine because they don’t know what it’s going to do to them.”
“There’s a certain amount of negativity. People are saying it won’t be good,” said Lafiah Mikell, a city-resident who has had COVID-19 and plans to get vaccinated. “Or they say it’ll hit us blacks first and us badly.”
Some hesitation in the vaccine in Newark can be explained by a longstanding distrust of the medical establishment and government, largely due to the Tuskegee study in the 20th century. The study, which enlisted unsuspecting black men to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis, has made many African Americans persistently reluctant to practice any medicine, including vaccinations.
So what can be done to change the tide?
“The health system needs to regain the trust of the people it serves in Newark,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of Newark University Hospital.
The responsibility for overcoming vaccine reluctance, Elnahal said, rests with the health system and government leaders.
“I wouldn’t hold public accountability, especially in color communities, if I remembered these historical inequalities and if people didn’t address their needs,” Elnahal said.
Ultimately, it will take a very local approach to improve vaccination numbers and reduce vaccine hesitation in Newark. Elnahal stressed the need to shift the strategy from large vaccination centers to a more street-conscious approach.
“The people who will be most helpful when we find out about this are the church leaders here in town, who have the trust of the people who live in this church and who understand how to strategize something like this when we do that Vaccine bring camps closer to people in the city, “Elnahal said.
The university hospital plans to set up pop-up vaccination clinics across the city in churches and other popular locations that are within walking distance of residents’ homes.
People overestimate the risk of getting the vaccine and underestimate the risk of inaction, “which will result in you getting COVID-19 in the community. The people who are probably most effectively talking about getting the vaccine are them People who have it. ” made this trip myself. It has to be a grassroots approach, “he said.
Newark was an epicenter for the spread of the disease. As of May 6, 967 people have died of COVID-19 in the state’s largest city and 36,734 people have been infected, according to Essex County data.
Government officials at the state, county, and township levels have formulated plans to address vaccine hesitation and to increase the number of vaccinations with varying degrees of specificity.
On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy outlined the state’s efforts to increase the number of fully vaccinated people in cities like Newark and to remove vaccine hesitation.
The approach that must be taken is similar to running a political campaign, Murphy said. “And as with any campaign, you immediately know who is with you and who needs a little more boost.”
The state is preparing for comprehensive, multimedia awareness-raising among the public, which also includes vaccinating more people. However, one of the tactics similar to political campaigning is for the state to “knock on doors” for people in underserved New Jersey communities, providing resources and information to help residents make decisions about vaccination.
The governor added that further efforts to improve vaccination numbers will include an initiative called “Grateful for the Shot,” which aims to work with faith leaders and clergy in urban communities to build the trust needed to meet the number of people Increase vaccinations.
“We’re enabling parishioners to go straight from worship to vaccination sites,” Murphy said. “This is a discount for ‘souls to vote,’ a similar notion of people [praying] then go to the elections. ”
Murphy also noted that the state will soon be releasing hyperlocal data on the number of vaccinations to help local officials work more effectively with county and state officials to fill any gaps.
Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., Essex County’s executive director, also outlined the county’s efforts to increase vaccinations and reduce vaccine hesitation. So far, the district has already set up a separate unit that works with places of worship, senior citizens’ homes, community centers and grassroots organizations to plan vaccination clinics in the community.
DiVincenzo particularly emphasized the need to get the vaccine to people in the more populated and urbanized areas of Essex County such as Newark through mobile vaccination.
“We continue to focus our efforts on Newark, Orange, Irvington and East Orange. We recently decided to expand the mobile outreach program by creating a second unit. If a particular site wants us to return to a second vaccination event, let’s include this. ” that’s on schedule, “DiVincenzo told TAPinto Newark.” All of this is happening outside of the regular registration system.
DiVincenzo also noted that the county’s mobile vaccination clinics accept walk-in residents who don’t have appointments and are then registered on-site. The county is also working with community health officials to identify and vaccinate local residents, the district chief said.
On Tuesday, DiVincenzo announced that appointments are no longer required to get a vaccine at the Essex County College center. People who live, work, or school in Essex County, including Newark, can go to get vaccinated between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Saint Michael Medical Center in the main department switches from appointments to walk-ins every Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Taylor and Wahed Walker said they hadn’t yet received their vaccination but were planning to do so. Both said they had been waiting for an appointment but would be ready to sign up if vaccinations in the local area were available right in their neighborhood.
“My wife’s mother had COVID-19. When she was able, she was the first to get the vaccine,” said Taylor. “She’s been good ever since.”
“Anyone can make anyone sick. I definitely plan to get vaccinated. I have a big family. They love me and I love them. I want to be with them,” said Walker. “I’m from Newark and I want to help the people of Newark make sure we’re all there.”
TAPinto Newark contacted the government of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka repeatedly for comments and received no response on a specific plan to improve vaccination counts and reduce vaccination hesitation. However, Baraka posted a video message on his Facebook page on Monday to address Newark’s low vaccination numbers compared to state numbers.
Most of the mayor asked Trenton for help.
“The state has twice the vaccination rate it has in Newark,” Baraka said, noting that 22% of Newarkers are fully vaccinated. This is an update of previous figures provided by city officials.
“You have to devote significant resources to places like Newark. You have to come into our community and make sure the vaccination rates are higher and get vaccinations in all of those neighborhoods,” Baraka said. “We’re already being treated differently. To fix that difference, you have to do more in other churches to be truly equal. That’s justice. There are some specific things that need to be done in Newark, other very specific things.”
While Baraka didn’t offer a specific plan, a New York-based public relations group announced Tuesday that Baraka would speak at a virtual Harvard Kennedy School event on May 13. Attendees at the event will present the results of a national research project that explored reluctance factors to help local government leaders make data-driven decisions about vaccine adoption.
Taylor and Walker, both in their twenties, made their own suggestions in anticipation of a plan.
“So far, only 22% of people have received the vaccine? That’s bad,” Taylor said. “People have to be open-minded. I’m free. Just let me know where to go.”
“Our elders do. Our generation doesn’t. They celebrate, and that’s a bad environment. Some people think they’re not going to catch anything. You can’t think that way,” Walker said. “It’s the people who make it possible.”
Every second matters to COVID-19 survivor Mikell. Now it must become known on Newark’s streets in order to save lives instantly.
“I’m not naive. I caught it and it was a fight. People need to know they got the vaccine and it didn’t kill them. My mom just got her second dose and she is fine,” said Mikell. “It’s everyone’s job to spread awareness that the vaccine is supposed to help, not hurt.”