More than 4 million New Jerseyans have received a first or second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, at a time when the state is scaling up its availability of doses and the pool of those who can get inoculated.
As of March 29, the state administered 2.6 million Pfizer or Moderna vaccine first doses, and fully vaccinated 1.47 million people in the state, according to Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials.
The goal is to vaccinate 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June.
Effective Monday, March 29, eligibility expanded to food production, distribution and agriculture workers; any remaining eldercare staff; warehousing and logistics; clergy; judicial workers; postal and shipping workers; elections personnel; hospitality; medical supply chain, and social services support staff.
The governor lowered the vaccine eligibility age to residents at least 55 years old on March 26, as well as those above the age of 16 who had intellectual and developmental disabilities. Higher education teachers and staff, sanitation workers, communication support workers, and members of the media, are now also eligible.
Those already vaccinated include health care workers and other frontline employees, and those with one of more than a dozen eligible medical conditions.
The vaccines are a vital component of permanently rolling back restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings, which have been in place this past year to keep the spread of the virus at bay.
President Joe Biden has promised that the nation could return to a large semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy by the July 4 Independence Day weekend, and announced on March 29 that 90% of Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by mid-April.
Murphy has assured that the days around this coming Easter weekend – essentially the next week – are when the state can expect a “quantum” jump in the number of available doses.
The state is getting 490,000 doses, which he said is a 20% jump over the prior batch.
Currently, the nation is relying on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which both require two shots, and the Johnson & Johnson version which only requires a single dosage.
And while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require storage in Arctic-level temperatures, J&J is shelf stable at refrigeration temperatures, making its transportation and handling far easier.
“I don’t want to pin it all on J&J, but the J&J supply is the big game-changer that allows us the flexibility,” like in lower-income communities, home-bound residents and other hard-to-reach segments of the population, Murphy said last week.