New Jersey could get up to 154,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine next week, on top of the hundreds of thousands it will get this month from Pfizer, according to a Monday announcement from New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
The first vaccine will be administered the morning of Dec. 15 to health care workers at University Hospital in Newark, marking what Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials say is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
“It’s a momentous day. It’s a day we have all been waiting for,” Murphy said at a Monday press conference. “As more vaccine shipments arrive – and as we anticipate Moderna’s vaccine will also be approved for its emergency use – our vaccination program will become much more robust over the coming weeks.”
The state is receiving a tranche of just over 76,000 Pfizer doses on Monday and Tuesday, Persichilli said, of which about 20,000 will go to long-term care residents and the rest to health care workers and volunteers.
Murphy said the vaccine is not mandatory for them, but implored the state’s health care workers and volunteers to get inoculated.
The vaccines will be dispensed to six hospitals across New Jersey, and those that already received shipments include University Hospital and Hackensack Meridian Health’s flagship campus at its namesake city.
A second round of 86,000 Pfizer dosses is coming next week, Persichilli said, followed by one more shipment of roughly 76,000 doses. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, administered roughly a month apart.
Moderna’s vaccine candidate could get federal approval from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as this weekend, according to Persichilli, meaning the vaccines could ship to New Jersey early next week.
“Because this vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage, we have more flexibility on the types of sites that can receive and provide the doses,” Persichilli added. “That allows wider distribution.”
A second batch of Moderna vaccines would number at 65,000 doses, according to the state health commissioner.
Vaccines are only being administered at major hospitals across the state, but as the statewide vaccination process continues, inoculation could eventually be obtained at community health centers and pharmacies. Persichilli said the goal is to vaccinate 70% of New Jersey adults within a six-month window, so by the late spring or early summer.
The vaccination process is a key component to begin containing the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Monday infected over 405,000 New Jerseyans and claimed almost 16,000 lives.
Daily cases have hit all-time record highs since Thanksgiving, as the state finds itself well within a second wave. Murphy and New Jersey State Epidemiologist Christina Tan said on Monday that the state was largely at the tail end of a Thanksgiving spike and that any final numbers on tests and hospitalizations would come in this week.
While that increase is partially due to vastly ramped up testing capacity compared to what New Jersey had in the spring, metrics such as hospitalizations, ventilator-usage, critical care patient count and daily fatalities have all moved in alarming directions.