New Jersey reached a milestone of vaccinating over 1 million people against COVID-19 since the first shot was given on Dec. 15, according to the latest public health data released on Feb. 8, as state health officials and the Biden administration contend with delays, shortages and bureaucratic hurdles.
Broken down, that’s 813,216 first doses and 224,237-second doses, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday. State health officials are aiming to vaccinate 4.7 million adults by June: those who live, work or study in New Jersey.
“We administered our first vaccine on Dec. 15 and, from there, it took us 29 days to cross the quarter-million threshold. And it took another 10 days beyond that for us to exceed 500,000,” Murphy said. “It has only taken us 16 days for us to administer the next half-million shots.”
Mass vaccinations are a key component for lifting the myriad of COVID-19 business restrictions, mask requirements and public gathering limits meant to contain the virus.
Demand for the vaccine far outpaces supply, but Murphy on Monday assured that the availability of doses for New Jersey and other states has been steadily picking up under the Biden administration.
Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, pledged to have 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of December but punted responsibility for those efforts to state and local health departments.
That goal post was ultimately not met until late January after Biden was sworn in as president. Murphy has pinned vaccine shortages as the main culprit behind a rocky start to what could be the most ambitious mobilization effort in a century.
Many of the private and county-run vaccine centers are not synced up with the state-run appointment online registration system, despite over 2 million pre-registering on the state site, adding to the confusion for New Jerseyans.
Some patients have complained about issues with scheduling a second vaccination appointment.
And the state’s six vaccine mega-sites, which will have a combined daily capacity of 10,000 doses, have repeatedly closed during days when they could not get enough doses.
This week, the state is getting roughly 248,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses, 110,000 of which are for second doses, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on Feb.5. That’s up from the 130,000 doses the state was previously getting, which itself was up from the weekly allotment of 100,000 doses.
And the addition of the single-shot vaccine candidate from New Brunswick-based drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, and likely approval, only serves to bolster the national vaccination capabilities. The federal Food and Drug Administration will consider the candidate when they meet on Feb. 26.
Storage requirements for the Johnson & Johnson shots are far less onerous than the Arctic-level temperatures needed for Moderna and Pfizer. Instead, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines can be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It will travel so well, it will be easier to deploy the vaccine closer to where individuals live,” Persichilli said on Monday.
J&J assured the federal government that they can have 100 million doses by the late spring.