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Essex County College on Front Line in Fight Against COVID-19

Nursing Department Chair Dr. Gale Gage, at right, with ECC Nursing student volunteers
Standing, from left, Nursing Department Chair Dr. Gale Gage, ECC Nursing Professor Majuvy Sulse and ECC Interim President Dr. Augustine A. Boakye. Seated is Nursing student Roseli Araujo

When Essex County began its rollout of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to public healthcare employees, first responders and essential workers the last week of December, it chose Essex County College (ECC) as one of its locations.

According to Dr. Gale Gage, Chair of the College’s Department of Nursing, it made perfect sense to choose ECC. “Newark has experienced a high number of COVID-19 infections and with our resources, we are the ideal location. We are also the only urban location in the county currently administering the vaccine,” she said.

Dr. Gage also had the distinction of administering the first vaccine shots at the College on December 26. The initial vaccine administered by Dr. Gage was to one of her former students who is now a public health nurse. 

The ECC site has been administering between 150 and 250 injections a day, said Sharon Guerrero of the Essex County Health Department. “There’s been amazing interest by the public to get vaccinated,” said Ms. Guerrero standing in the hallway of the College’s Gym as a steady stream of residents came to receive the shot.

The second dose is given 28 days after the initial shot.

Dr. Gage also put out a request for volunteers among the College’s Nursing students. She said eight student volunteered almost immediately. Each day four or five of the volunteers assisting are ECC students. Nursing Department faculty members Majuvy Sulse and Myrna Scott also have been assisting in the effort.     

“It’s important to be here and it’s providing me good experience,” said Nursing major Roseli Araujo. Among Roseli’s duties is ensuring people receiving the shot remain on site for 15 minutes before leaving. Roseli added as soon as she heard about the call for volunteers, she was ready to help.

Fellow Nursing student Maddie Sutton was busy checking in residents and issuing them proof of vaccination cards. “It’s such a good feeling helping out on something as important as this,” she said. Maddie comes to the Gym for about five hours three days a week. She hopes to continue once a week when classes start on January 19.

“This is such a fantastic learning experience for our students to see how public health workers battle a global pandemic. They are a part of history. It is especially our responsibility to educate our Black and Brown communities on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” said ECC Interim President Dr. Augustine A. Boakye.  

“As our Newark college community continues to struggle with many underlying health conditions that exacerbate the risks associated with COVID-19, we must rely on the science that the vaccination is safe,” said Alfred Bundy, a member of the College’s Coronavirus Alert Taskforce. “It’s also good to see the College playing a key role in combatting COVID-19 in Newark,” added Mr. Bundy, who is also Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at ECC.

Even as the vaccine is being administered, it remains imperative that people still adhere to all CDC health and safety guidelines, which are in place at the College. These guidelines include frequent hand washing, properly wearing a face mask, maintaining social distancing of 6 feet apart, and staying home when you feel ill. It is also important to get tested frequently. Visit the College website,, for information on additional safeguards.