NJ county urges COVID-19 vaccines ahead of in-person high school, college graduations

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
MORRIS COUNTY, New Jersey (WABC) -- One county in New Jersey is urging high school and college seniors to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus ahead of in-person graduation ceremonies.

Morris County and Atlantic Health System launched an initiative to urge students to schedule appointments at the Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall in Rockaway Township via the Atlantic Health System's website.

"We are grateful for the fast work of our county professionals who organized this important initiative in just a few days," Morris County Commissioner Director Stephen Shaw said. "I also want to recognize the extensive expertise Atlantic Health System staff are bringing to the program as they insert appointments for these young men and women into the intricate operations at the busy vaccination center."

Students can immediately schedule appointments that are available this week at the Vaccination Center, which has been issuing vaccines to about 4,000 people daily.

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"Atlantic Health System is committed to building healthier communities and that includes helping ensure we can all enjoy life's important moments safely and in good health," Atlantic Health System CFO and Administrative Officer Kevin Lenahan said. "We proudly join our partners in Morris County in strongly encouraging all eligible students to get vaccinated as soon as they can find an available appointment."

The student appointments will not interfere with any other scheduled appointments, and students under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all vaccination appointments.

"Thanks to the efforts of our healthcare workers and educators, Morris County is a leader in the effort to get our schools reopened," Morris County Executive County Superintendent Dr. Timothy Purnell said. "This vaccine deployment is yet another effort to protect the health of our residents, and to get our children back to social interaction and human connection."

The student vaccination initiative was proposed by Morris County Commissioner John Krickus, who presented vaccination data to the board regarding Morris County, which is leading the state in per-capita inoculations through all the various facilities issuing vaccinations in the county.

"We got the word out to our high schools superintendents, hey, if kids want to come down, young men and women want to come down, get the vaccination, because we know they're going to want to celebrate," he said. "We're going to try to get back to as normal as possible."

Krickus said it is important to create opportunities for student inoculations, which will maximize the ability of educational institutions to resume public high school and college graduation ceremonies and it must be anticipated that friends and families of the graduates will be holding private gatherings.

"We want to give high school seniors and college grads the best chance at having as close to a normal graduation experience as possible," Krikus said. "This effort not only protects the students, their families and their friends during graduation celebrations that inevitably will be held, whether publicly or privately, it also will not affect the supply of vaccine for others in our community who very much need it."

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New Jersey had already authorized the inoculation of young people over age 16 as of April 19, and students were seen trickling in on Thursday.

"I was hesitant, I had to reschedule this appointment," junior Allison Argeuta said. "Just because so many kids my age are hesitant to get the vaccine. But I've spoken with a few that have gotten it, and they reassured me that it's the best thing to do right now."

The main hope is a return to any sense of normalcy.

"So with my junior year, with prom and everything, things will be back to normal," sophomore Finn Tully said. "So I'll be able to have a normal high school experience, which has been covted recently."

The Vaccination Center was opened January 8, 2021, under a partnership with Morris County, Atlantic Health System, the Morris County Sheriff's Office and the State of New Jersey. It is operated by AHS medical professionals and staff from the Morris County law and public safety department, with the assistance of the sheriff's office.

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