Getting the COVID-19 vaccine to people from some of the highest-risk populations is just one of the challenges health care officials have been facing since the vaccine was introduced two months ago. Addressing concerns over the vaccine is just as important.
Cooper University Health Care is addressing both issues.
On Saturday, Cooper will open the first neighborhood-based COVID-19 vaccination and education center at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, which is located at 1865 Harrison Ave. in the Cramer Hill section of Camden.
Cooper and city officials feel doing this at the Kroc Center, a 120,000-square-foot facility that has established itself as place trusted by the community since it opened in 2014, is key.
The Kroc Center, they said, is a great location to not only provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but to simultaneously create a community setting where local residents can go to learn more about the vaccine.
The residents will get more than a shot. Cooper co-CEO Kevin O’Dowd said a multilingual team of health care professionals will be there to answer questions and concerns before and after getting the vaccine.
“Camden has been the hardest hit community in Camden County during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this first-of-its-kind neighborhood vaccination and education center will help save lives by making it easier for more Camden residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine as well as connect with health care professionals to answer their questions and concerns,” O’Dowd said.
Camden County Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said expanding the vaccination efforts to neighborhood-based institutions such as the Kroc Center is a key step to getting more of the most vulnerable populations vaccinated.
“Working with our partners at Cooper, we believe opening this clinic will provide us with a strong vehicle to deliver this important vaccine,” he said. “Ultimately, this vaccine is a beginning to the end of this pandemic, and we want to ensure it gets into the hands of every Camden resident.”
The vaccine and education neighborhood-based center initially will be open on Mondays (9 a.m.-1 p.m.), Tuesdays (2-6 p.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m.-1 p.m.).
The vaccine only will be available to Camden residents — and by appointment only. (Residents can schedule an appointment online at my.cooperhealth.org or call 856-225-6141.)
Cooper and Camden officials said the goal is to vaccinate 500 people a day — and that the hours will expand as vaccine supplies increase.
The need in the area is there.
Cooper and Camden officials say the Cramer Hill area makes up 38% of Camden’s population, but accounts for 44% of COVID-19 cases in the city.
Capt. Keith Maynor, Kroc administrator, said the vaccination and education center will be the first in the nation to be established at one of the Salvation Army’s network of community centers. It is a place where Camden residents are comfortable getting care, he said.
Cooper, the leading academic health system in the region, with a more than 130-year history in the city, is also well-known in the neighborhood. It operates a primary care office at the Kroc Center.
“We are blessed to partner with Cooper to offer critical vaccination services and educational outreach for our neighbors in the Camden community,” Maynor said.
Cooper co-CEO Anthony Mazzarelli feels the education component will have big impact.
“Along with our COVID-19 testing site in the city, this new neighborhood COVID-19 vaccination and education site will help us provide important health care information to local residents from a source they have come to trust,” he said. “It will also be easier for them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus.”
U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.), who attended the kick-off event announcing the launch of the new site, credited Cooper with stepping up in the crisis.
“This new COVID-19 vaccination and education center will provide Camden residents with access to the vaccine and outreach services,” he said. “While no one could have predicted the pandemic, I commend Cooper University Health Care and Camden County for their responsiveness and innovation during these uncertain times to get testing, vaccines and resources to those in our community who need it most.”
Cooper’s neighborhood COVID-19 vaccination and education center is receiving a wide range of support from the Kroc Center, Camden County, Camden County College, Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden.
Camden Mayor Frank Moran said the city is fortunate to have so many partners.
“Camden has been fortunate to have outstanding community partners like those at Cooper University Health Care and Camden County, who continue to aid our residents in the battle against the COVID-19 virus,” he said. “We all must do our part to protect our families, neighbors, co-workers and those most vulnerable living within our community.
“Having access to the vaccine and trusted health care professionals at neighborhood sites like the Salvation Army Kroc Center is a difference-maker. I have recently been vaccinated myself, and can assure residents that the vaccine is safe. I urge all eligible Camden residents to get the vaccine so we can put an end to this public health crisis.”