One million New Jerseyans have now received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose and are fully inoculated against the virus, a milestone indeed as health officials at the state and national levels grapple with months of sluggish roll-outs.
As of March 15, there were 3 million vaccine doses administered, of which 1 million were the second shots required from the Pfizer and Moderna doses. State health officials are aiming to have 4.7 million adults fully vaccinated by some point in June.
The vaccine efforts are a key requirement for a permanent relaxation of restrictions meant to halt the spread of the virus, such as mask mandates, limits on crowd sizes and private gatherings, and reduced capacity at schools and businesses.
Gov. Phil Murphy has relaxed several restrictions – restaurants can expand indoor capacity from 35% to 50% – even in the face of several highly transmissible variants which have gained a foothold in New Jersey.
“We believe that when all factors are weighed, we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress” on health care in the state, Murphy said at a daily press briefing on March 10.
But, he maintained days earlier on March 5, “if it weren’t for the variants, I think we would be moving aggressively sooner” with reopenings.
Several thousand doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are available to New Jerseyans, but those doses are extremely limited for the next few weeks. It is not clear how many of these 3 million does are from the Johnson and Johnson shot.
“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.
Roughly 3.7 million New Jersey adults are eligible for the vaccine – according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli – even though most of them could still wait weeks or months to get a first dose.
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.”
President Joe Biden last week ordered all 50 states to expand eligibility to their entire populations by May 1. He’s assured that by the entire nation would have access to a vaccine by July 4. Eligibility in New Jersey was expanded on March 15 to include NJ Transit and Motor Vehicle Commission workers; migrant farm workers; public safety officers not already covered such as probations officers, and child protective service workers; and those in homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters.