Kearny police, fire & EMTs first in Hudson to get COVID-19 vaccine

If you drove anywhere near Kearny Police Department Headquarters on Friday, Jan. 8, you may have wondered why Laurel Avenue was closed between Forest and Elm streets. There wasn’t an accident or incident, but instead, inside the police garage, police officers, firefighters and EMTs were getting their first of two COVID-19 vaccines.

It was the first day the aforementioned group of three first responders were eligible to receive the vaccine, after Gov. Philip D. Murphy belatedly made a decision to open up the vaccine to them. 

The event at police headquarters was made possible because of early discussions between KPD Chief George King and North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s CEO Joan Quigley. 

The chief wanted to open up the vaccine to his force — and the fire department and EMTs — as soon as possible.

And so when the governor made the decision to open it up to what is called Category 1A, it was on. 

“Around 50 on the police department signed up to get the vaccine,” King said. “Members of the fire department will be here, too, as will others.”

The Observer was invited to watch as several cops and firefighters got their shots, the first of what will be two in total.

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Police Officer Jose Canela allowed us to photograph him getting the shot in his right arm. 

“It was fine,” he said after getting the shot, noting he didn’t feel a thing as a NHCAC nurse injected it.

That doesn’t always happen, though. One of the NHCAC employees said people getting the vaccine have complained of soreness in the arm, but only for a short while — around a day or so after vaccination.

While police officers who were at headquarters were able to walk into the garage by foot, others pulled in with their vehicles from the Elm Street entrance. King says he wanted a large area for the event and wanted it to be as convenient as possible for everyone.

Once they pulled in and parked, and filled out some paperwork to hand to one of the half dozen or so workers from NHCAC on hand, they were safely given the first shot by a nurse. After receiving the shot, those with vehicles drove out of the garage and into the Laurel Avenue police parking lot for 15 minutes of observation.

This is the customary wait time to ensure there were no adverse reactions to the shot. Fortunately, there were none throughout the time we were on hand.

The first responders were the first to get the vaccine in Hudson County. Others, including the Hoboken Police Department, were given access to the vaccine a day or two later. And for the first responders who were unable to get the vaccine, but who still want it, NHCAC is making the shots available.

“For any health care workers Category 1A looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine, please call today to make an appointment. Appointments are available on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at our Union City Health Center, located at 714 31st Street, Union City. Reach out to our call center to book an appointment at (2010 210-0200,” a pop-up notice reads on the organization’s website.

Speaking of the organization, Quigley, on hand to supervise the vaccinations, took time to speak with The Observer before she departed. Aside from her political career as a member of the State Assembly, she has spent a lifetime in the healthcare industry. It should be no surprise that nothing in her career has come close to the havoc COVID-19 has caused to the people of the world.

 “As I said before, we went through SARS, we were scared about Ebola, none of them really developed so in the beginning I thought this also would be, you know, a flash in the pan, but it’s frightening. This is the big relief to get the vaccine.”

Quigley said healthcare workers had been getting the vaccine in her Union City headquarters up to Jan. 8 and the organization will continue to do so as long as the state provides the vaccine to NHCAC. They’re responsible for vaccines in Southern Bergen County and all of Passaic County, as well, so they’ll be quite busy in the coming weeks and months.

Still, she has a message for anyone weary about getting the vaccine for whatever the reason.

“Think about the chances the chances of getting sick, the chances of getting very sick with the chances of having a sore arm for 12 hours or so from the vaccine — there’s no comparison, no comparison,” Quigley said. “I’ve seen that health care workers are on television saying to people, ‘think about getting a quick needle in the arm or later down the line, a ventilator down your throat — which would you prefer?’ The answer? The shot.”

As a healthcare worker, Quigley, who herself had COVID-19, was among the first to accept the vaccine when it was first made available.


Meanwhile, as all of this was happening at the KPD, Hudson County Executive Thomas A. DeGise announced that 75% of the county’s vaccine doses have made their way into the arms of those eligible to receive it, a rate far higher than many locations across the nation.

The Hudson County Vaccine Distribution Center also anticipates receiving two additional shipments of the Moderna vaccine in the coming days to continue its robust efforts in vaccinating all residents and essential workers, the county executive said. 

As we enter into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever its important for us to invest all of our resources into an efficient and robust vaccination program,DeGise said. We will continue to keep Hudson County residents safe, healthy and informed through the remainder of the pandemic and ensure that everyone receives a vaccine in line with the states vaccination schedule. 

Additionally, Hudson County has launched a comprehensive website to provide the most up to date information about vaccination and testing opportunities available to residents. COVID.HCNJ.US directs individuals where to make vaccination appointments, lists information about testing opportunities at the county testing site at Hudson Regional Hospital and shares relevant local COVID-19 data. 

Hudson County was the first in New Jersey to open a county-run public vaccination center (in South Kearny) and began vaccinating individuals within hours of receiving its first shipment. The center is operating through a collaborative effort with the Hudson Regional Health Commission, the Hudson County Improvement Authority, the Hudson County Office of Emergency Management, County Department of Roads and Public Property, the Hudson County Schools of Technology and the Hudson County Sheriffs Office.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.