Health officials expecting Easter surge in COVID vaccines

Daniel J. Munoz//March 3, 2021//

Health officials expecting Easter surge in COVID vaccines

Daniel J. Munoz//March 3, 2021//

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New Jersey health officials are vowing that the number of vaccine doses will “explode” around Easter on April 4 thanks to the infusion of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson received emergency federal approval over the weekend, and it announced it will be working with long-time rival and Kenilworth-based Merck to double production.

The J&J dose only requires a single shot, unlike the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna versions. And it requires storage at regular refrigeration temperatures, rather than the Arctic-level temperatures needed for Pfizer and Moderna.

Several health organizations, including CarePoint and local health departments, began receiving their first shipments of J&J vaccines March 3 and will be administering the shot as soon as possible. In all New Jersey is expecting 70,000 does to be distributed in the first batch.

“Either side of Easter… I believe the supplies of not just J&J, but Pfizer and Moderna, are going to explode. We will be in a dramatically quantum different place,” the governor said at a March 3 COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton.

“You’re going to have [a] breakout of supplies in April and May.”

The roll-back of business and public gathering restrictions and eventual repeal of the statewide mass mandate is incumbent on a successful statewide vaccination.

State health officials are aiming to have 4.7 million adults vaccinated by June – that number currently stands at 1.4 million first doses and over 740,000 second doses that have been administered since the first shot was given to a University Hospital nurse in December.

President Joe Biden on March 2 promised that there would be enough vaccine doses “for every adult American” by the end of May – just under three months.

“When J&J gets back on the boards with meaningful numbers and you had that commitment that Pfizer and Moderna have made to meaningfully increase their supplies, that all comes together in that timeframe” or “plus or minus Easter,” Murphy stated.

“And you go not just up incrementally,” he said of available doses, but rather the state would see a “quantum leap up.”

For now, the state announced this week that it is expanding eligibility to include teachers, grocery store employees, restaurant workers and transportation workers.

The state recently added another 11 medical conditions for those eligible to get the vaccines to include those between the ages of 16 to 64 who have asthma or high blood pressure, or who are overweight based on the body mass index

All told, 3.7 million New Jerseyans are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persicihlli.

She and Murphy acknowledged that March would as a result have the largest supply-demand imbalance.

But the governor maintained that “there’s real value for folks in a particular community to know when they can register even if there’s still a supply-demand imbalance.”

“We are really trying to get everything in order for April and May, when we expect the supply to increase we want to be able to jump on that pretty quickly.”