Orange rushes to vaccinate senior housing residents

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ORANGE, NJ — The City of Orange Housing Authority partnered with the town to host a Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pilot Program event for senior housing residents on Tuesday, March 30.

Enthused about the city’s push to vaccinate residents against COVID-19, Mayor Dwayne Warren said the town’s current focus is to vaccinate its seniors.

“Today is vaccination day for our seniors at 340 Thomas Boulevard, 355 Thomas Boulevard and 105 Wilson Place; they’ve all come here today to get vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Warren said on March 30 during the vaccination program. “We started at 10 a.m.; we’re going to go until 2 p.m. or until our vaccines run out. We have a very lively and competent staff administering inside. We have a full, professional setup for the administration of the vaccination and then a waiting room. We provided water as well, and we’re doing it with a lot of smiles.

“We have been doing this for the past six weeks,” he continued. “Today is the first day here, but one of our focuses has been making sure that we get to senior buildings, because that is where the most vulnerable population is, and we want to bring it right to them where they don’t have to leave their buildings. They can come downstairs and get vaccinated and go back upstairs. We’re trying to get 100-percent vaccination of our seniors in Orange, for all those who want it.

The seniors received the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, which requires only one shot, as opposed to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two.

“We’ve found that seniors prefer the Johnson & Johnson because it’s one shot, and they don’t have to come back,” Warren said. “Since we had the opportunity, we brought it here. If we only get Moderna, we’re going to use Moderna and just encourage them to come back for their second shot as well.”

Orange has also distributed the Moderna vaccine; it depends on which vaccines are made available. The town has partnered with FEMA to receive the vaccines. The goal for March 30 was to give 150 residents the vaccine.

“We think we have most of the slots filled, but we’re taking registrations beyond the number of vaccines available because we really want to demonstrate to the federal and state government that there is a high demand in Orange, to make sure that they come back again,” Warren said, thanking the federal, state and Orange agencies that have made these vaccination programs possible. “We didn’t ask for COVID-19 and we don’t like COVID-19, but COVID-19 came to us, and our job is to respond to it. Now we’re ramping up to make sure that we’re vaccinated across the city.”

On March 30, HACO Executive Director Walter McNeil Jr. received his vaccine at the event as well.

“I love it. This is the best thing that has come to us this year because of the COVID circumstances. We need to have all of our folks vaccinated, and we’ve been waiting for this vaccination,” McNeil said on March 30. “Our folks wanted it and they got it; 150 people lined up ready to be vaccinated. On a rough count, right now, we have about 40 people vaccinated so far this morning.”

Councilwoman at large Adrienne Wooten enthusiastically supports this initiative as well.

“I’m here to support the Housing Authority and Mr. McNeil and his staff, as well as Mayor Warren, with the vaccination of our seniors within this building,” Wooten said on March 30. “It’s exciting to see the seniors who stay in senior housing be vaccinated.”

For many officials, these vaccination programs are vital for ensuring that all residents have access to the vaccine.

“We all need to realize that medical and health care access is not equivalent to all,” Maya Lordo, Essex County health officer, said in a press release. “One of our goals with the county of Essex, administrators and executives, is to ensure vaccinations are accessible to all during this pandemic.”

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman and Courtesy of Kevin Rider Jr.