Virtua Activates Mobile Program to Improve Access to COVID-19 Vaccines Across South Jersey
Colorful vehicle also provides flu shots for children and adults
March 14, 2023 - For the third consecutive winter, COVID-19 has been a source of stress and sickness for people across South Jersey and beyond. Virtua Health, a not-for-profit health care system with more than 350 locations, is a regional leader in promoting COVID-19 vaccines, and has administered about half a million vaccine doses since they first became available in December 2020.
Now, anyone looking for a free COVID-19 vaccine or booster can schedule an appointment with Virtua’s Pediatric Mobile Services unit – a brightly colored vehicle that brings health screenings and other care interventions directly to communities that have historically faced barriers to care. Despite the word “pediatric,” these COVID-19 vaccines are available to people of all ages (6 months and older).
Click here for a schedule of mobile vaccine clinics coming to Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties. Or, schedule an appointment by calling 609-304-0151. Although walk-ups are welcome, scheduling an appointment helps ensure an efficient experience. Identification is not required, and Spanish-language interpreters are available.
Martin Topiel, MD, chief infection control officer for Virtua Health, identifies two groups that particularly benefit from COVID-19 vaccination: children and seniors.
“Whether it’s through day care, school, or extracurricular activities, young people have several recurring opportunities to be exposed to COVID-19 and potentially spread it to others,” he said. “While it is a good thing that children, typically, do not become as ill as adults, we should do everything we can to protect them – and therefore protect everyone they encounter.”
As of December 9, 2022, children ages 6 months to 4 years are eligible to receive the bivalent booster two months or more after completing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series.
As for seniors, Dr. Topiel added: “Medical evidence shows that the bivalent booster prevents hospitalizations, severe illness, and death related to COVID-19 for adults 65 and older. I strongly encourage seniors to protect themselves, particularly anyone who has other health risks or existing conditions.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults receive the bivalent booster two months after their initial vaccine series and any initial booster(s). The CDC website features an interactive questionnaire to help people determine their vaccine eligibility.
Providing COVID-19 vaccines is a natural extension of the services offered onboard Virtua’s pediatric mobile unit. For several years, the program staff have administered free flu shots, which are also available through the spring for anyone interested. (Flu cases typically dwindle in late April or early May.)
“The best part about having a program on wheels is that we get to work with community partners and go directly to the places where we can do the most good,” said Maria Emerson, MA, CCC-SLP, director of rehabilitation services for Virtua Health. “We believe everyone has the right to quality care, and we want to establish ourselves as a reliable, accessible resource.”
Virtua Health is promoting vaccinations via a comprehensive outreach campaign that includes print ads, social media posts, and colorful signage on bus shelters. The message “Vaxxed, Relaxed, and Feeling Good” conveys the frequently cited peace-of-mind vaccination brings in addition to protection from the virus.
“Whether you are overdue for a booster or have never received a COVID-19 vaccine, take advantage of Virtua’s mobile program,” Dr. Topiel said. “Healthy communities require everyone to do their part.”