You can get a free ride to a COVID vaccine site, thanks to NJ Transit, pharma companies

Posted May 04, 2021

Need an NJ Transit train or bus ride to get vaccinated? Novartis and Catalent are sponsoring up to two free round trips for 11,000 people to get their COVID-19 shots.

The public private partnership, to transport underserved and low income people to get vaccinated is the second phase of NJ Transit’s Vaxride program that started in March with a website feature showing people the closest transit services to vaccine sites.

Norvartis, a New Jersey based healthcare and pharmaceutical company is the lead sponsor, donating $120,000 and Catalent, which is among the global companies manufacturing vaccines, donated $12,000

While announced at a press event at Newark Penn Station on Tuesday all the speakers used it as an occasion to encourage more people to get vaccinated and some mentioned where they got the shot.

“Vaccines are the fastest way to get to herd immunity and to help us recover,” said U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D- NJ, who said he got a shot early to show people it was safe. “Vaxride is so important, it helps us put the pandemic behind us. I thank Norvartis, Catalent and NJ Transit for this great program.”

Payne mentioned getting vaccinated as a way to roll back coronavirus restrictions, saying he looked forward to the day when people wont have to wear masks.

Norvartis sponsorship is part of $40 million it has committed worldwide to communities impacted by COVID-19, said Rob Kowalski, Norvartis interim U.S. President, who added he was vaccinated at the Essex County site a few weeks ago.

Vaxride tickets can be obtained by entering the code “VAXRIDE” on the NJ Transit mobile app. Customers without access to the app can get Vaxride tickets at the customer service offices in Newark and New York Penn station, the Port Authority bus terminal, Secaucus Junction, the Trenton and the Walter Rand Transit Centers.

Access Link customers can get tickets by mentioning the Vaxride code when making reservations for transportation. Riders can also call NJ Transit customer service to have Vaxride passes mailed to them.

NJ Transit also has another stake in seeing more people vaccinated.

“Vaccines add another level of confidence for customers that transit is safe, Corbett said. “We are grateful to Norvartis and Catalent and other companies can partner with NJ Transit and sponsor rides.

The effort comes on the heels of other initiatives to increase the vaccination rate, including a “shot and a free beer” campaign at 12 New Jersey breweries, that Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Transit advocates suggested earlier in the year that NJ Transit follow the lead of other transit agencies by providing free transportation to and from vaccine sites. However, NJ Transit was working on obtaining sponsors for Vaxride before those comments were made, said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, transportation commissioner.

A maximum of two round-trip rides can be obtained because “we don’t know what vaccine people are getting,” she said. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

The effort is an expansion of NJ Transit’s larger VaxRide program that was started in March. A map on the webpage can be used to find vaccination sites that are served by NJ Transit bus, train and light rail routes. While appointments can’t be made through Vaxride, many sites have started to offer the ability to walk in and get vaccinated.

While Corbett mentioned this was phase 2 of Vaxride, he said the third phase would be announced at a later date.

The idea stops short of a suggestion made by retired transit advocate David Peter Alan in February to use larger transit stations as vaccine centers to serve people who don’t drive or don’t have access to a car.

He said larger NJ Transit stations such as Secaucus Junction have the space to serve as vaccine sites. Whether that happens is up to the state Department of Health, Corbett said.

“If they feel there is a need for more (vaccine sites, we’ll make them available,” he said.

NJ Transit worked with University Hospital to vaccinate NJ Transit and Port Authority front line employees at the Ferry Street bus garage Newark, in addition to vaccinating employees at Camden and Maplewood NJ Transit facilities, he said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-05-05 03:26:14 -0700