Just over 3.7 million adults who live, work or study in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated, leaving another 1 million arms the state needs to hit in order to reach the Murphy administration’s self-imposed herd immunity goals.
The total includes 3.5 million who got vaccinated in-state and roughly 163,000 residents who got vaccinated out-of-state, according to the state Health Department.
Gov. Phil Murphy is aiming to fully vaccinate 4.7 million adults by June 30, which he contends is a key step to meaningfully roll back COVID-19 restrictions put in place on businesses and public gatherings in order to control the pandemic spread.
Most of the delivered shots are from the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and a small percentage are from the one-shot Johnson & Johnson inoculation. Interest, nonetheless, has lagged in recent weeks.
That final 1 million-person stretched will fall into the auspices of “Operation Jersey Summer,” an aggressive campaign to reach the final 1 million arms of adults, many hesitant and on the fence about getting the vaccine.
That plan includes hundreds of “boots on the ground” that’ll knock on doors across the state to promote the vaccine and available sites, coordination with local religious and community leaders, free beer from participating breweries for those who get a first shot in May, walk-ins accepted at the six vaccination mega-centers, dosage supply to local officials and medical offices, and hyperfocus on some of the most urban neighborhoods where vaccination rates have lagged the most across the state.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli estimated on May 10 that the state needs to administer 280,000 first doses each week in May and 220,000 second doses each week in June in order to reach that goal.
Once that threshold is met, Murphy said the state will turn its attention to young adults aged 12 to 15 years, following the likely federal emergency approval of Pfizer’s application to use shots for people in this age range.
Persichilli said on May 12 that pending that likely federal approval by the Centers for Disease Control, adolescents could get the vaccine “perhaps as soon as tomorrow,” given that they will be “immediately available” to get a shot.
“Should this be approved, every New Jersey resident within this age group will be eligible to receive Pfizer’s vaccine wherever it is being administered,” Murphy said on May 12. They would still need parental approval to get a shot, he said, but stopped short of endorsing a requirement for people in this age group to get the shot.
“I hope we can get there of their own free will,” the governor said. “It’s going to be a lot more convenient to be vaccinated and a lot more inconvenient to not be vaccinated.”
The widespread availability of no-appointment, walk-in appointments at vaccine mega-centers and pharmacies across the state means “we can quickly expand the number of those being vaccinated against COVID.”
“We have also noted time and again that even though our youngest residents have among the lowest rates of hospitalizations and deaths, they have had among the greatest rates of transmission,” the governor said. “ It will also be a big part of the overall picture for reopening more fully and more quickly.”
Pfizer is also running studies to vaccinate children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old, but New Jersey Medical Director Ed Lifshitz said there would not likely be any significant developments on that front until the fall.