Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration this week began a campaign to educate and vaccinate homeless people against the highly contagious Hepatitis A virus.
A small team, made up of approximately five municipal health workers, is targeting shelters and other places where the homeless congregate in the city to administer the vaccine.
“The goal is to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A among our residents with safe and effective vaccination of those using drugs, experiencing homelessness and men having sex with men,” said health officer Paul Persaud, a medical doctor.
Persaud described the effort as “innovative” and a response to the statewide increase in the number of Hepatitis A cases. As of Dec. 7, 2019, there were 543 Hepatitis A cases in the state, biggest numbers were in Camden County, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Passaic County had 43 cases, according to the data. Paterson had a Hepatitis A scare in early October when a food handler at the Brother’s Produce tested positive for Hepatitis A. Shoppers were told to throw away produce purchased from the market.
Persaud said in a single day this week health workers vaccinated 16 people. Part of the effort also includes HIV outreach and testing for the homeless. Those who agree to get themselves tested are given a $10 coupon to purchase food from a supermarket.
There is funding from the state to cover expenses associated with the vaccination and the health education effort, said the health officer. He said the effort will run for the next six months. He said the city is working with local organizations and nonprofits to further the effort.