According to reports, African Americans in New Jersey account for less than 5% of people getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Black men only account for 2%. Gov. Phil Murphy hopes to change that with community partnerships to get vaccines in underserved areas of the Garden State.

New community-based vaccination sites are being supported through a partnership by the New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Department of Defense, in addition to local faith leaders, nonprofit organizations, local officials, and health departments. The community-based vaccination partnership will vaccinate 15,000 residents through the end of March.

“Among our highest priorities is ensuring equitable access to appointments and vaccinations,” said Murphy. “We are grateful for this unique partnership between our state agencies, federal government, and faith and local leaders as we begin this new phase in our vaccination effort to provide New Jerseyans with access to vaccines.”

The initial phase of the community-based vaccination partnership will include sites in Somerset, Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland, and Paterson. The locations were selected because they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are some of the most diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the state. The partnership launched on Monday at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset.

“We are ready for this. We’ve had educational webinars for our members for the past month,” said Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset. “Overwhelmingly, African American and Hispanic members of our church and community are ready to take this vaccine. I have a woman 105 years old registered for the vaccine. We have 100 staff and volunteers who are going to serve and assist seniors.”

In order to ensure equitable access in these high-need cities, sites will operate as closed points of distribution for members of the immediate community only. Vaccination appointments will be required and will be handled directly through partnering houses of worship, community organizations, and local community leaders.

Each site will coordinate with a health partner and vaccines will be dispensed from the State’s allocation. A vaccination support team from the Department of Defense will provide the clinical staffing at the sites and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide non-medical support.

Each site will be able to vaccinate approximately 1,500 people per week and vaccinations at each location will take place over a two-week period, followed by a return to administer second doses.

“Throughout this pandemic, the Health Department’s work on the COVID-19 response and our vaccination planning has been done through an equity lens,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this virus, and with our interfaith community partners, we are working to increase access and availability of the vaccine to vulnerable communities.”