The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in New Jersey

Posted on 04/19/21 by Emily Paulin

En español | Who can get vaccinated now?

  • Anyone 16 and older who lives, works or attends school in New Jersey
  • New Jersey has paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of a type of blood clot that has developed in a small number of people after vaccination. The federal government has called the reaction “extremely rare” but “serious.” If you have an appointment for the J&J vaccine, your provider or state or local health department may honor it with a different vaccine or may reach out to reschedule for a different vaccine. You can also contact your provider or health department for more information. 
Governor Murphy Visits Middlesex Countys Covid-19 Vaccination 'Megasite'

Where can I get vaccinated?

  • Local vaccination sites, including community centers, hospitals, local health departments, medical clinics, pharmacies and vaccination events, can be found on the state’s online COVID-19 Vaccine Locations page. The page lists providers’ names, locations, contact details and links to websites, so you can try to schedule an appointment directly with the providers. You also can sign up for the state’s Vaccine Scheduling System, which helps you find vaccination providers to pre-register for an appointment. The state system notifies you when appointments become available, but you must book one yourself.
  • A federally backed community site is operating at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. It is operating every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m with capacity to administer 6,000 doses per day. Visit the state’s Vaccine Scheduling System or call 855-568-0545 to schedule an appointment.
  • Retail pharmacy chains — including CVS (and some of its Target-based pharmacies), Rite Aid, ShopRite, Walmart, Sam's Club and Walgreens — have created online COVID-19 vaccine pages where you can register and search for appointments across their locations.
  • New Jersey's Vaccine Appointment Finder website is a new tool that aggregates information across multiple scheduling platforms, multiple times an hour, letting you know where appointments are open and directing you on how you can make one for yourself. Note: the site is in beta, meaning it is still being developed.
  • Through your employer or living facility. Most New Jerseyans who are prioritized for a vaccination because of their job, such as health care workers, or because of where they live, such as at a nursing home, are being vaccinated through their workplaces or the facilities where they reside. Check with your employer or residence before scheduling a vaccination appointment.
  • Through your house of worship or community organization. The state has launched a community-based vaccination program to provide equitable access of the COVID-19 vaccine to underserved communities in Somerset, Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland and Paterson. These sites operate as closed points of distribution for members of the immediate community only. Vaccination appointments are handled directly through partnering houses of worship, community organizations and local community leaders, who will inform you if you qualify.  
  • Veterans Affairs facilities are vaccinating veterans, spouses and veteran caregivers. Those enrolled in the VA health care system get priority; additional appointments will go to others who are eligible based on their age, health problems and other factors that increase their COVID-19 risk. Sign up with VA to get updates on vaccine availability and to be notified when you can make an appointment.
  • The state’s COVID-19 call center at 855-568-0545 can answer questions about the Vaccine Scheduling System from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, in more than 240 languages. The call center’s ability to schedule appointments for callers has been paused temporarily. Alternatively, you can submit an online form if you need support.
  • The state's seniors-specific call center at 856-249-7007 can assist those 65 and older with registering for, scheduling and rescheduling appointments from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
  • Vaccine supplies remain limited in many areas. Most vaccine sites require you to schedule an appointment online or by phone. Appointments can be hard to get, as available time slots may be booked quickly, and you might be put on a waiting list. You can sign up at multiple sites to increase your chances of getting an appointment, but once you have confirmed a slot at one site, public health officials ask that you don’t schedule with any other provider so that those slots stay open for others. 

AARP recommends that you ask your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the coronavirus vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are at increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment?

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Officials recommend that you bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, and your health insurance card, if you have one. You will not be charged, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine.

If you are prioritized because of an underlying medical condition or based on your work, you may need a note from your doctor, a pay stub or badge, or some other form of proof. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wear a mask at your appointment. 

How are residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities getting vaccinated?

Most residents and staff of long-term care facilities in New Jersey are being vaccinated through a federal program that contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccines via free on-site clinics. Apart from a very small number of outstanding clinics, the program is complete. 

To ensure long-term care facilities still have access to COVID-19 vaccines — for new residents or staff, or for residents and staff who were initially hesitant to receive the shots — the federal government is continuing to allocate vaccines to pharmacies partnered with long-term care facilities.

Which vaccines require a second shot? 

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. The recommended second-shot date is three weeks after a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s, but the CDC says an interval of up to six weeks is acceptable.

If you made your first-dose appointment through the NJ Vaccine Scheduling System, the portal will automatically schedule your second-dose appointment and send you an email with the details. If you scheduled a first-dose appointment directly with a provider, they should ask you to schedule your second-dose appointment at your first-dose appointment or earlier. Contact your provider if this didn't happen.

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for those 18 and older. 

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires just one shot, though distribution of that vaccine has been paused.  

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like a flu shot. 

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?  

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. Providers can recoup a fee for administering the shot, but not from consumers. They would be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance company or the government (in the case of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, for example).

Scammers are purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

What should I do with my vaccine card? 

You should get a small white card at your vaccination appointment with your name, birth date, name of the vaccine you received and the date it was administered. If you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, bring your card when you get your second shot.  

You may need your vaccine card for certain kinds of travel or other activities, so keep it in a safe place. You can take a photo of it with your smartphone for your own records. Experts say that posting a photo of your card to social media could make you vulnerable to identity theft. If you lose your card or did not receive one, contact your vaccine provider or your local health department to get a copy. 

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?   

Yes. Experts are still learning about how vaccines affect the spread of COVID-19, so the CDC still recommends taking precautions while in public — including wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Scientists are also studying the effectiveness of the vaccines against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus. 

It takes two weeks to build immunity after the single-dose shot and the second dose of the two-dose shots. After that, fully vaccinated individuals can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, the CDC says. They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless any of them are at a high risk for severe COVID-19. 

Helpful Resources

  • The state’s COVID-19 vaccine information page includes additional FAQs on vaccination eligibility, how to get a vaccination, the state's Vaccine Scheduling System, vaccination providers and how the vaccines work.
  • The New Jersey Travel Independence Program (NJTIP) has prepared an online list to help people reach COVID-19 vaccination sites using public transportation. It will be updated about every two weeks. If you have questions, call 973-275-5555. 

This guide, originally published Jan. 16, was updated April 19 with new information on vaccine eligibility.

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This story is provided by AARP New Jersey. Visit the AARP New Jersey page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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