Beset with Problems, New Jersey’s COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center Pauses Making Schedule Appointments

With the call center set up by the New Jersey Department of Health failing to live up to expectations, the state placed a temporary pause on its ability to schedule appointments.

“While the agents were working to assist those who wanted appointments, we discovered we needed to streamline the system on the agent end to prevent scheduling errors, and also offer further training to the agents so that they can best meet your needs,” said Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli at a press briefing Feb. 10. “We hope to bring up their scheduling capability in the near future.”

The call center will still field calls pertaining to providing information about vaccination sites, preregistering individuals and answering frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine. But the promise to be able to schedule appointments offered just 48 hours earlier was rolled back. 

Double Booking

“We were finding that that was not as easy as we thought it was going to be,” said Persichilli. “It ended up with things like double booking, which is something we cannot have.”

Before the pause, agents had registered more than 6,000 people to receive their vaccine shot out of the approximately 50,000 who had gotten through to an operator since going live Jan. 25. Many callers were seniors seeking appointments after not being able to obtain one on various state and private online portals.

The call center training will be focused on the use of the system and increased training on registering appointments.

“Now that we’ve got a little bit more experience, we know the areas where they need a little bit more training,” Persichilli said. 

Built in a Month

The commissioner noted that call center workers, all working remotely but based in New Jersey, have done pretty good on providing responses to frequently asked questions. And residents can still make an appointment through the state’s website or by visiting the six megasites.

Officials asked for patience for the call center that was built from scratch in just a month’s time and now employs 250 individuals looking to help New Jersey residents. 

“Not a lot of other states have been able to do that,” said Murphy. “I hate the fact that people are waiting but please bear with us as we find a happy medium here.”

Microsoft Issues

Additionally, officials looked to place the part of the blame on its vendor, Microsoft.

“(It) continues to be an ongoing challenge,” commented Murphy. “It feels like it’s two steps forward, one step back with the vendor.”

Persichilli added “The system itself has had issues, and we are directly speaking with Microsoft…almost every day to work out those bugs.”

Daily Data

On Feb. 11, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 656,904 with 3,012 total new PCR cases reported. There were 840 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 79,426. The total number of individual cases for the state is 736,330. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.

As for those that have passed, the state reported 79 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,083. The state listed probable deaths at 2,246, bringing the overall total to 22,329. State officials noted 38 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on Feb. 11, Bergen had a total of 327 new confirmed cases and 72 probable cases, Essex 251 new cases and 69 probable cases, Hudson 263 new cases and 64 probable cases, Morris 199 new cases and and 31 probable cases, Passaic 235 new cases and 49 probable cases, Sussex 50 new cases and 11 probable cases, and Warren 30 cases and eight probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,328, followed by Bergen at 2,266, Hudson with 1,754, Passaic at 1,471, Morris at 872, Sussex at 206 and Warren County at 191.

In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 277, Essex has 261, Morris at 222, Hudson has 177, Passaic at 167, Sussex has 61 and Warren has 18.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 6, was 12.2%; by region, the rate was 12.9% in the North, 12.7% in the Central region and 9.6% in the South. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 0.80 from 0.81 the previous day. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 2,656 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,270 in the North, 798 in the Central and 588 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 519 are in intensive care units and 348 on ventilators. A total of 382 patients were discharged, while 252 were admitted.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 63,759, followed by Middlesex at 63,301, Essex at 63,079, Hudson at 59,427, Passaic at 49,466, Ocean at 48,047, Monmouth at 47,552, Union at 46,299, Camden at 37,687, Morris at 29,618, Burlington at 29,326, Mercer at 24,770, Gloucester at 19,997, Atlantic at 18,446, Somerset at 17,339, Cumberland at 11,378, Sussex at 7,362, Warren at 5,853, Hunterdon at 5,754, Salem at 4,045, and Cape May at 3,425.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,614, followed by Union at 7,122, Ocean at 5,874, Essex at 5,664, Morris at 5,041, Hudson at 5,013, Monmouth at 4,759, Atlantic at 4,729, Middlesex at 4,571, Passaic at 4,336, Camden at 4,312, Burlington at 4,006, Somerset at 3,817, Cape May at 3,224, Gloucester at 2,933, Cumberland at 2,125, Mercer at 1,481, Sussex at 1,041, Warren at 677, Hunterdon at 590, and Salem 448.

Another 974 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 142 outbreaks involving 671 cases, with five new outbreaks accounting for 16 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 10. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreaks with 129 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 400 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,110 of the cases, broken down between 6,957 residents and 7,153 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,238 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,000 residents and 20,686 staff, for a total of 52,686 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,840 on Feb. 11. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,758 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,190,757 as of Feb. 11. Of those who have received the vaccine, 904,399 residents have received their first dose with 285,858 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer. 

Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 51% are White, 18% unknown, 17% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 37% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 26% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 133,098 doses, Essex 99,264 doses, Morris 86,217 doses, Passaic 55,837 doses, Hudson 54,282 doses, Sussex 18,306 doses, and Warren 11,374 doses. 


  1. A month to prepare??? If the State waited until the vaccine were actually available to begin preparing the for the distribution of vaccines and vaccinations, that would be evidence of gross incompetence. The availability of vaccines by year end 2020 had always been the expectation, which means that the State should have started planning, testing the systems last summer. But, New Jersey is “Number One” in the country and in the entire world in terms of covid deaths/100,000 population for a reason: gross incompetence by the politicians and public health officials. Just hopeless.

    1. I got my first shot through the state site on Jan. 31 and am still waiting for their email with the time and date of ny second shot! It’s so absurd that they didn’t schedule it when I was there for the first shot like they do at other sites not arranged through the state. Now I have the anxiety of not knowing how to get my second shot in the recommended time frame! They said I should have received the email within a week. What a joke.

      1. Neva, Unfortunately, your experience is common. How much thought does it take to understand that if the protocol is two shots 4-6 weeks apart, the second shot has to reserved and scheduled and that simple computer systems can easily do that? How much thought goes into remembering that since the Middle Ages the only effective non-vaccine means of protection from an epidemic is isolation/quarantine of vulnerable people? I would have thought that the history would be an important element of public health education but the successful lessons of history have clearly been forgotten or ignored. Nearly all the nursing home deaths would have been avoided if the public health officials had simply ordered a total quarantine of the facilities: no one, no one out including staff who would be richly compensated for staying in.

      2. Well, I guess I’ll just have to drive the hour and 15 minutes to the site where I got the first one, on the day the state was supposed to schedule me, and pray that they give me the second shot without the appointment since the state screwed up royally! Unless of course I get the email within the next 2 weeks. Not holding my breath.

  2. This is all because of the Trump Administration Failure; now watch the Republicans will point the finger at Murphy. This is their modus operandi; blame, accuse the other of what they are guilty of.

    1. You are mostly correct except for the state not scheduling second appointments at the time of the first shot like in instances where people schedule directly with sites. I am still waiting for the elusive email scheduling my second shot and getting more anxious by the day! Terrible procedure. If ai don’t get the second shot within the allotted extra time what am I to do? This is inexcusable.

    2. If it were all due to the Trump Administration, why are so many states doing so much better than New Jersey? NJ is Number One not only in this country but in the entire world with respect to Deaths per 100,000 population. The incompetence of NJ Public Heath officials is staggering: after six months notice that vaccines would be available by year end (thanks to the Trump Administration) NJ doesn’t set up a vaccination system until a few weeks ago and then it fails?

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