Andy Anderson, 73, hoped, along with his wife, Kathy, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible, but the Glassboro couple found, like thousands of others in the Philadelphia region, a confusing maze of sign-up options and details that change almost daily.
Limited doses of the vaccines are being rolled out in phases by New Jersey, which distributes them to counties, health-care providers, or mega sites managed by the state. But it’s not always clear for those seeking the vaccine how to get an appointment or even which sites have available doses.
Anderson, a financial adviser, first started trying to register shortly after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that starting Jan. 14 vaccinations would be expanded beyond health-care workers to anyone age 65 and older, or younger residents with a high-risk medical condition.
He logged on to a portal operated by the state for preregistration that is supposed to email those who are eligible under the phased rollout.
”I haven’t heard back from them, and I realize that it was probably fruitless,” Anderson said.
The state has said it is working to improve its vaccine distribution, and reported more than 475,000 doses administered by Thursday. But Murphy said the state needs more supplies from the federal government to keep up with demand.
After trying the state site, Anderson registered with a website run by Cooper University Health Care and Jefferson Health in partnership with Camden County for its mass vaccination site at the county college in Blackwood. He received an appointment for a vaccination at the end of April.
The couple also registered online with Burlington County, which is running a mass vaccination site at the Moorestown Mall in partnership with Virtua Health, but it took hours to do so as the site continually got hung up. Eventually they got an appointment, but that was also too far in the future for the couple.
So, Anderson and his wife drove to Rowan University’s mega site in Glassboro, Gloucester County. There, they took a chance and waited in a long line without an appointment for 90 minutes before getting turned away. The site had previously been taking walk-ins, though officials are now telling residents to first register through the state portal.
Anderson estimated 150 people without appointments managed to get in that day.
Finally, the couple heard about a site to be opened by Inspira Medical Center in Mullica Hill, not far from their home. Anderson received an 8:45 a.m. appointment for Thursday.
“Had my first shot today,” Anderson said Thursday night. “Immediate service.”
He was home by 9:05.
“I feel fine. No effects. Not even a sore arm,” Anderson said.
On Friday morning, Kathy received a message from the state website she had first logged on to more than a week before that she could now make an appointment through their scheduling system, but she may have to wait for available doses.
She was already on her way out the door to get her first dose at Inspira.