Over 450,000 New Jerseyans on Jan. 5 pre-registered online to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, bogging down the website and rendering it useless for many users – the latest blemish on the state’s sluggish rollout of the inoculation process.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, the state will enter “Phase 1B” of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which includes police officers and firefighters.
According to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichill, Phase 1B would overlap with the prior stage – Phase 1A – which includes paid and volunteer health care workers.
And, she said, the state does not need to reach every single health care worker before moving onto the frontline essential employees that risk exposure to COVID-19, making them part of Phase 1B.
But slowdowns, technical issues and site shutdowns dragged out the process for many of those who tried to sign up on Jan. 5 on the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System.
At times, the site read that the NJVSS “is experiencing a high volume of traffic,” and that “some users may experience a temporary delay as the system scales to meet demand.”
“We know the process wasn’t perfect” because of “the pent up demand,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during his Jan. 6 COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton. “You’ve got to bear with us.”
In addition to health care workers, the 1A population segment includes long-term care residents, such as senior, veterans and group homes, psychiatric centers and correctional facilities.
Perschiilli said that only health care personnel and other essential workers should pre-register for the vaccine and that the general public should “wait until there is an announcement… about when you will be able to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.” The vaccination process is a key component of getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control and lifting the myriad of business restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus, which has entered the second wave both in New Jersey and across the nation.
Of the more than 400,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses the state has received as of this week, almost 134,000 have been administered, just over a quarter of the vaccines it received. Over 2,000 of those shots were the second doses required for a patient to build immunity.
“I wouldn’t say slow,” the governor maintained. “We’re right in there with every other American state dealing with the same challenges and having in many respects the same reaction.”
He and Persichilli maintained that the figure of 134,000 shots delivered is underreported and that the actual figure is likely much higher.
State health officials are hoping to administer the vaccine to 70% of the adult population within a six-month window, by April or May.
Murphy said that he, Persichilli and other state health officials will be visiting two vaccination “mega sites” this Jan. 8 when they are opening – Rowan College in Gloucester County and Rockaway Townsquare in Morris County – each with a capacity of 1,000 people a week.
CVS and Walgreens are offering vaccines, as are 39 ShopRite pharmacies across the state. Local counties are providing the vaccines as well, while the state is taking in retired medical volunteers to help administer the vaccine.