COVID-19 vaccine distribution is off to a slow start


Photo by Sammy Salz

Vaccination sticker

The administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to Americans has begun for those in phase 1A and 1B, which includes healthcare personnel, long-term care residents and staff, first responders and “high risk” people, those with pre-existing medical conditions or those 65 years and older. According to the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub, since the vaccine was made available in New Jersey on Dec. 15, more than 400,000 New Jersey residents have been vaccinated, including more than 21,000 Union County residents, and this number continues to rise every day. 

According to, President Joe Biden’s goal is to distribute 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in office. He is pushing to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible by creating federal vaccination sites, using federal funds to create community vaccination centers in different states and enabling mobile vaccination clinics to reach those in remote areas of the country. Biden’s emergency legislative package outlined a $1.9 trillion program to increase funding for vaccination centers, testing sites and to help boost the economy. 

Biden’s plan is different from former President Donald Trump’s initiative. Compared to Trump, who wanted to withhold vaccines to ensure that second doses are available, Biden wants to maximize the production of the vaccine. He intends to roll out the vaccines to the public as fast as possible, even if that means people only receive one dose and then wait to get their second dose at a later date. 

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with that he does not recommend delaying the second dose of the vaccine because there has not been sufficient testing on the effectiveness of the vaccine if the two doses are more than four weeks apart.

Although the vaccine is available for those in phase 1A and 1B, many people in those groups are encountering issues scheduling appointments to receive the vaccine. Dan Sullivan, President of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, said, “The issue is that it requires two vaccines, so if you go to site A for your first vaccination, you have to go back to the exact same spot [for the second dose] anywhere from 21-28 days later.”

There is a concern about what happens to the vaccines that are not used if people don’t show up for their appointment, or if there are extra doses. To be effective, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Moderna vaccine must be refrigerated at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. These vaccines would become unusable if someone missed their appointment, so there are “on-call” people that vaccine sites can contact in the case that they have extra vaccines. “They don’t let the vaccines go to waste,” Sullivan assured.  

All of the school nurses in the Westfield Public School District have received the vaccine, and the next step is for teachers and students to get vaccinated. WHS teachers are included in phase 1B and will be receiving the vaccine soon. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says teachers are “on deck” for vaccination, and many WHS teachers have pre-registered and are waiting for an appointment to receive the vaccine.

However, the timeline looks different for underclassmen students. WHS Nurse Carole Stavitski explained, “At this point, [some of] our students will need to wait for a longer period of time for the vaccine because the vaccines have not yet been researched on children under the age of 16.”

According to WHS Nurse Robert Ripper, “They are just starting to do research for younger people, but that is going to take a couple of months. After they do that, it will be close to a year before they can actually get the vaccine.” 

For eligible students and adults, Ripper recommends that “unless there is some reason you can’t, you should get the vaccine because it is the safest thing.” 

WHS Health Teacher Susan Kolesar encourages students to make an educated decision before choosing to get the vaccine. She said, “I truly believe that the decision to get it or not is one that each person has to make for themself after doing research, considering their own belief system, and getting a recommendation from their physician.”

WHS alumna Alyssa Milrod received her first vaccination on Dec. 31. She believes that it is a smart choice to receive the vaccine. “There are so many unknowns right now regarding long term effects of the vaccine and COVID-19, but I would rather deal with the potential and unlikely effects of the vaccine and know I did what I could to protect those around me,” said Mildrod.

Like others who have gotten the vaccine, she said her arm was sore, which is typical of any shot. “It looks like my arm has a bruise right now even though it has been a few weeks. Other than this, I have not experienced other symptoms,” said Milrod. “[However], my brother, who is in his medical residency, experienced a fever after his second dose.”

After receiving her first vaccination, Milrod feels more confident and safe seeing people, while still wearing masks and socially distancing. She said, “[The vaccine] has made life feel a whole lot more normal and happy again.”

Although it will take time for everyone to get vaccinated, and changes won’t happen overnight, Stavitski said, “I am hopeful that every single student will soon feel comfortable returning to school and participating in a ‘normal’ school day.”