TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As the demand for a COVID-19 vaccine increases around the country, more vaccination sites are popping up in New Jersey.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis visited a new center in Bergen County on Wednesday.
Holy Name Medical Center just opened up a mass vaccination center at a community center in Teaneck. Organizers say the plan is to start slow over the first few days, vaccinating hundreds per day, and ramp up from there.
It’s appointment only to get a vaccine. There is a reminder on a sign leading up to the Rodda Community Center.
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Teaneck police officer Antherson Ramirez let CBS2 shadow him as he checked in and got his vaccine.
“It’s doing our part. As many precautions as we may take, we still have to make contact with people. The last thing we want to do is put other people at risk just because we have to do our job,” Ramirez said.
After receiving his shot, he was brought into an observation area, where those vaccinated wait 15 minutes to make sure they’re good to go. That’s where DeAngelis met Kathleen and Robert Sandt.
“It’s the best day ever, big celebration. We got 12 grandkids we gotta hug, so we’re way overdue,” Robert Sandt said.
Everyone DeAngelis met at the center was able to get vaccinated under phase 1B as first responders or those 75 and older.
Right now, the site in Teaneck is set up with six vaccination stations.
“We’re in our first days and we’re ramping up, again, based on supply. But ultimately, the goal is to be able to vaccinate a minimum of maybe 1,500 people a day … As you can see, we’re set up to have up to 12 and, eventually, we have room that we can do 24 vaccinators. But that would be significant amount of supply needed to support that operation,” said Nancy Palamara, Holy Name’s vice president of diagnostics and therapeutics.
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The Centers for Disease Control recently expanded guidelines for vaccination eligibility to everyone 65 and older. Gov. Phil Murphy said beginning Thursday, the state will follow suit. In addition, certain people between 16 and 64 will also be eligible.
“With medical conditions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus,” Murphy said.
That includes, on the honor system, cancer, kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart problems, obesity, along with smokers.
“Smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from COVID-19 and there are 2 million smokers in New Jersey that fit into this category,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli said.
Murphy said there are about 260 different distribution sites and six mega sites in the state, but more doses are needed from the federal government.
That was echoed by Bergen County Executive James Tedesco at the vaccination site at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center.
“The facility can handle hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of vaccines a day. The list is going to grow because we add more people. The issue is the supply of the vaccine,” Tedesco said.
Back in Teaneck, the goal is to eventually vaccinate a minimum of 1,500 people a day, but officials made it clear — more doses are needed.
State data shows more than 264,000 doses have been administered so far. A CDC tracker shows New Jersey has been given more than 654,000 doses.
Watch Jenna DeAngelis’ report —
Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said limited federal allocation is impacting distribution of the vaccine, but in a tweet Wednesday, he stated doses administered have increased by 67,000.
Outside New York City and in the suburbs, some eligible for the vaccine did not make it past the first step.
Rockland County resident Gus Gabriel said when he couldn’t make a COVID vaccine appointment in Rockland, he tried booking an appointment in Westchester County, but he says there was no availability there for months.
He’s worried about his 77-year-old mother.
“Then they moved to 65-plus when people 75-plus didn’t even have a chance to register,” Gabriel told CBS2’s Cory James.
Seventy-nine-year-old Orange County, New York, resident Anita Gandolfo is experiencing that too and can only get the vaccine if she travels 50 miles away and waits until March.
“All week, I’ve been checking with places. Nobody in Orange County has the vaccine this week, including very big medical conglomerates,” she said.
Orange County executive Steve Neuhaus says supply is a challenge.
“We got 800 doses personally delivered to the county last Tuesday. We went through it all within 24 hours, and unfortunately, we requested an additional 3,000 doses on Friday and only received 200,” he said.
Some don’t understand why they’re expanding eligibility so soon.
“Smoking cigarettes, age of 16,” Gabriel said. “It is ridiculous.”
“We are the most vulnerable population,” Gandolfo said.
But others say someone getting the vaccine is better than no one.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis and Cory James contributed to this report
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