©istockphoto.com/Irina Shatilova

Good news for older adults or people trying to make a COVID vaccine appointment for their parents – multiple New Jersey Walmart and Sam’s Club locations have appointments available for patients 65 and older.

This is great news as it seems it’s been very difficult for people to secure a vaccination appointment. These 34 locations are administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and those 65 and older can make an appointment by calling their local Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy or by calling the New Jersey Senior Hotline at 856-249-7007. It was not made clear whether those under 65 with qualifying medical conditions could also make appointments at these locations.

For New Jersey residents with special needs, visiting a vaccine site can be a stressful and overwhelming ordeal. That’s why the Burlington County mega-site has introduced sensory rooms. These calming rooms are a respite for those patients with autism, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. The goal is to ensure a less stressful experience for patients getting a COVID shot and the people who care for them.

“Just as we have wheelchairs available for those with physical limitations, we felt it important to create a welcoming environment that considers the needs of individuals who are easily overstimulated by bright, busy spaces,” said Phyllis Worrell, emergency preparedness coordinator for Virtua Health.

The sensory rooms are set apart from the general vaccination area and are free of unwanted stimuli. The walls are painted a muted shade of marron and the overhead lighting is reduced to create a calm atmosphere. There is soft seating available, from beanbag chairs to low-to-the-ground “gaming” chairs.

“So far, the sensory rooms have been well-received by vaccine recipients and their families. I applaud the mega-site organizers for being broad-minded in their vision and recognizing that different people experience the world in different ways,” said Maria Emerson, director of rehabilitation services at Virtua.

Virtua Health, the health care partner for the mega-site, also created a resource page on its website to provide guidance to guests with special needs. This includes a picture schedule that caregivers can review with the vaccine recipient to help them prepare for the appointment.

The Burlington County COVID-19 Vaccine Mega-Site is one of six state-run mega-sites in New Jersey. Most days, the Burlington facility distributes more than 3,000 vaccine doses.