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The township of Bloomfield held a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday to introduce residents to procedures for the public COVID-19 vaccinations beginning this week throughout Essex County.

Township and county health officials Karen Lore and Maya Lordo joined Clara Maass Medical Center doctor and chief clinical effectiveness officer Naveen Ballem for the virtual event that was one among many similar meetings around the state marking the beginning of the campaign to inoculate 70 percent of New Jersey’s residents – or 4.7 million people – in the next six months.

Here’s what we learned about COVID-19 vaccinations for Bloomfield residents.

What’s the timeline for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Essex County? Who is eligible?

On Dec. 26, Essex County will begin opening five vaccination sites to the public and inoculating people categorized as priority 1(a), or paid or unpaid people who work in highly infectious health care settings, including healthcare professionals, support staff, home health aids, and funeral home workers, among others.

The county sites will be open for a few days before the New Year holiday (Dec. 28-30) begin operating consistently six days per week in January and aiming to reach more than 3,500 daily inoculations.

In addition, New Jersey’s six COVID-19 vaccination mega-sites are expected to come online mid-January and begin vaccinating as many as 14,000 priority 1(a) residents per day.

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in two doses and appointments made through Essex Conty will be made together for 28 days apart.

Officials at the meeting were unsure of when people categorized as priority 1(b) would become eligible for vaccinations, including residents 75 and older and those that work in emergency response, education, agriculture, and other vital sectors.

Priority 1(c) will include people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk conditions and adults aged 65 and older and may be able to begin receiving vaccinations as early as March, according to Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, who facilitated the meeting.

Which vaccine is being distributed?

Essex County received the Moderna vaccine from New Jersey, which was secured through a federal contract with the company. Moderna’s vaccine received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18 and consists of two shots given 28 days apart.

Fourteen days after the second dose, the Moderna vaccine will prevent people from catching COVID-19 almost 94.1 percent of the time.

Is the vaccine safe? What are the side effects?

The vaccine is much safer than getting COVID-19, said Bellem, but people may experience mild side effects.

According to the FDA, those include pain at the injection site, fatigue, aches and pains, and sometimes nausea, and vomiting, or fever. These are more common after the second dose.

Clara Maas Medical Center gives employees 24-48 hours off after the second dose, according to Bellem.

“We believe that it’ll have a significant impact on your body’s immune system, and will cause muscle aches, fatigue, and sometimes we’ve seen a cough,” Bellem said.

People who receive the vaccination will be encouraged to enroll in v-safe, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention service tracking COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

Individuals taking immunosuppressants or with a history of severe allergic reactions should bring up their medical history with their vaccine provider, according to a FDA fact sheet.

Bellem said there have been no studies of the vaccine’s effect on women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so cannot make a judgment on its safety for that population.

Where will Bloomfield residents get vaccinated? How do I keep track of priority groups and registration windows?

The West Caldwell School of Technology at 620 Passaic Avenue in West Caldwell is the county vaccination site designated for Bloomfield residents.

To get an appointment, residents can check Essex County’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination intake site. County residents can also call 973-877-8456 to register or ask questions about testing or vaccinations.

Lordo said the county will continue to promote vaccination information using social media, robocalls, and by working with municipalities. And Venezia said Bloomfield residents should follow the town’s Facebook page. (You could also sign up for our Daily Bulletin, local news and information for and about Bloomfield delivered to your inbox daily.)

The state vaccination sites, as well as other healthcare providers and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, will also begin administering vaccinations but no further information is available yet.

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Do I need to pay to receive the vaccine?

Essex County will ask for health insurance information if it’s available but no one will have to pay out-of-pocket to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Lordo.

Upon registration, residents will be able to select whether or not they have a health insurance provider. Those providers will be charged $16.24 and $28.30 for the first and second doses, respectively, Lordo said.

People do not need to have insurance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

What if I need transportation to get my COVID-19 vaccine?

Venezia said mayors in Essex County are working with County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo to set up transportation options for senior citizens when priority 1(b) vaccinations begin.

I recently had COVID-19. Should I get vaccinated?

Bellem says that both vaccine manufacturers suggest waiting at least 90 days after they’ve had COVID-19 to get the vaccine because healthcare professionals don’t want to overwhelm people’s immune systems.

Video and audio of the entire COVID-19 vaccine town hall and a transcription of the discussion is available via our Public Meeting Notes service.