Township COVID-19 Vaccination Site Gets Off To Brisk Start

A County health worker gives instructions to a person arriving at the drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site in Rutgers Plaza on April 7.

County health officials expected nearly 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to be distributed at the township’s satellite vaccination site on April 7.

There’s another 200 doses awaiting ready arms at the site, located in the old K-Mart parking lot in Rutgers Plaza, on April 8.

The Somerset County Commissioners, led by Franklin resident and Commission Director Shanel Robinson, picked the township to be the first satellite location to back up the mass site at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg.

Only Somerset County residents were eligible for appointments at the site. Appointments had to be secured through the state’s COVID-19 web site.

Robinson said on April 7 that she hoped the pop-up site would return, but that would all depend on how many doses the state, and therefore Somerset County, receives in the future.

First in line on April 7 to get the one-dose vaccination was Franklin Park resident Robert England.

England said that while his immediate family has not been touched by the virus – which has infected 5,437 Franklin residents since mid-March, and has been attributed to the deaths of 201 residents in that time frame – he felt it was important to get the vaccination.

“It’s very important,” England said, as he was waiting in the holding area after receiving his vaccination. “Everyone should get vaccinated, so we get herd immunity and move on with our lives.”

England said he had been wanting to get vaccinated, and was looking through the state web site on April 6 to see “what was available, I saw a spot available, so I signed up and came.”

Robert England, of Franklin Park, was the first person to get vaccinated at the County auxiliary vaccination site on April 7.

Even though he’s vaccinated, England said he will still take the regular precautions of washing his hands, wearing masks and social distancing.

“Of course,” he said. “I’m OK, most of my family’s been vaccinated now, but everyone still has to do their part.”

Besides Robinson, other local and state officials on hand at the site on its opening day were Mayor Phil Kramer; Township Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5); Dr. Namitha Reddy, chief medical officer of the Somerset County Health Department, and state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17).

According to the state’s Covid web site, “As of April 5, vaccine eligibility has expanded to include additional essential workers, individuals age 55+, and individuals age 16+ with intellectual and developmental disabilities. On April 19, eligibility will expand to include all individuals age 16+.”

Somerset County wide, 127,637 people have been vaccinated, with 77,053 residents fully vaccinated, according to state statistics.

Kramer said he was “very excited” to have a County auxiliary vaccination site in Franklin.

“People in Franklin have been driving to Atlantic City and other distant locations to get vaccinated,” he said. “I’m glad that the County has given Franklin its first auxiliary site for RVCC.”

Kramer and Danielsen were among the chorus of voices urging the County to open a satellite site in the Eight Villages.

“I did a little bit of begging to make sure Franklin got the first auxiliary site,” he said. “They knew they had to do it, we’re the largest, we have the most cases.”

Vassanella, in whose Ward the site is located, said he was “thrilled that they have the site set up here today. This corridor is one of the most densely populated areas of Franklin and the county. Anything we can do to bring more vaccines to the people is wonderful.”

Danielsen said the County had no choice but to open a site in Franklin.

“The County starts with Franklin Township,” he said. “We have the largest population of people, the largest population of Black and minority groups, the largest population of senior citizens and senior communities. We have the largest group of vulnerable people.”

“Everything starts and ends here in Franklin Township,” he said.

“We’re doing this as a national community,” Danielsen said. “It’s like a boat, everybody has to put their oar in the water, and we have to paddle.”

Robinson said that Franklin has been eyed as a vaccination site since early on in the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that all who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated,” she said. “We’re just hoping and praying that the increased allocation we got continues, but there is no guarantee.”

This is not the first mass vaccination site located in the township.

In February, more than 3,100 people were vaccinated at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens under a state-sponsored program designed to bring the vaccine to people of color and Hispanics.

On its face, the program seemed to be partially successful. Of the 3,195 people who were vaccinated, 2,457, or 77 percent, were Black. But only 182, or 5.7 percent of those vaccinated, were Hispanic, according to statistics from the Somerset County Health Department.

Another 14 percent, or 437 people vaccinated, were White, with 134 (4.2 percent) Asian. Fourteen of those vaccinated identified as American Indian, while two said they were Native Hawaiian, according to the County statistics.

Most of those vaccinated were township residents, with more than 1,240 coming from Somerset and more than 140 from Franklin Park, according to the County statistics. There were also several Middlebush residents receiving vaccinations.

Other towns with strong presences in the program were Piscataway with more than 200 residents participating, North Brunswick with about 144 residents participating, and New Brunswick, with slightly more than 100 residents participating, according to the County statistics.

Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …