By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
MARLTON, N.J. — Virtua Health, a nonprofit health care center based in South Jersey, received its first 3,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week.
The nonprofit began administering doses of the vaccine to its staff at the most risk of exposure to the coronavirus — including members of emergency medical service teams, intensive care units, and emergency departments — on Friday.
“This is an encouraging, historic day for Virtua and the South Jersey community,” Dennis W. Pullin, FACHE, the president and CEO of Virtua Health, said in a press release. “I’m extremely proud of the extraordinary efforts by so many Virtua colleagues to make today’s vaccine logistics possible. This much-anticipated milestone is exactly the boost we needed to enable us to better protect the lives and health of countless people across our region and beyond.”
Although there’s been some confusion in terms of vaccine distribution throughout the nation, Virtua Health said in a release that it expects to receive about 3,000 doses for the first three weeks of distribution before getting larger shipments later on. Approximately 150 Virtua workers received their first dose of the vaccine on Friday, and the nonprofit health care center expects to continue vaccinating people seven days a week for the next several weeks.
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines, the latter of which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend, require two doses per person spread out across 21 days. If Virtua gets the steady supply of vaccines that it anticipates, the nonprofit will be able to administer certain community members’ second dose of the vaccine while continuing to give people their first dose.
As per New Jersey’s plan for coronavirus vaccine distribution, front-line health care workers are classified in the ‘1A’ category — the highest priority possible. The ‘1B’ and ‘1C’ categories consist of essential workers and community members over the age of 65 with pre-existing health conditions, respectively, and they will get priority in vaccine distribution before it’s opened up to the general public.
The state will release more information on how members of the general public can get vaccinated at a later date, but New Jersey has announced its plans to open six vaccine “mega-sites” early next year. Rowan College of South Jersey’s Gloucester campus, the Atlantic City Convention Center, and the Moorestown mall will be used as hubs to distribute a large amount of vaccine doses, and the state also plans on opening more than 200 smaller vaccine distribution sites scattered throughout New Jersey.
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