Gov. Phil Murphy warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dragged on for nearly a year and a half, now persists “overwhelmingly among unvaccinated individuals.”
Practically all new cases and hospitalizations, Murphy said on June 14, are among people who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is becoming increasingly, by the day, a pandemic of unvaccinated individuals,” he said during a regular COVID-19 press briefing that afternoon. “Suffice it to say, these 260 total cases we are reporting today should be considered almost entirely, if not exclusively, from unvaccinated individuals.”
Murphy’s self-imposed goals call for fully vaccinating 4.7 million adults by June 30 – 70% of the state’s adult population – just 16 days from now. After that, the focus will switch toward New Jerseyans in the 12- to 17-year-old age group.
Widespread vaccinations are vital to permanently lifting the myriad of restrictions on businesses, public gatherings and travel that have been in place over the past year to halt the spread of the virus.
“This is something that will be around for a long period of time, and hopefully at very low levels” so it can “be managed as other diseases,” said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, medical director at the New Jersey Health Department.
“It may get included together with the flu vaccine, it may be an annual dose,” he said of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“As the numbers show conclusively, they are effective – 99.94% effective against infection and 99.999986% effective against illness requiring hospitalization,” Murphy said. “These vaccines work. They are safe.”
But interest has lagged in recent weeks, due to outright vaccine denial or so-called “anti-vaxxers,” as well as caution and hesitancy around the vaccine, and barriers for people – particularly those with lower-incomes – to get the shot.
Efforts to encourage that final round of vaccinations include incentives, perks, bringing vaccine sites to local communities, like religious establishments, and outreach to African American and Hispanic neighborhoods that have been more hesitant to get the vaccine.