New Jersey hit its vaccination milestone nearly two weeks early, with 4.7 million people who live, work or study in the state fully vaccinated against COVID-19 just over six months after the first shot was given.
As of June 18, a total of 4,748,031 people in the Garden State have gotten their full dosage of vaccine, or roughly 70% of the adult population, according to state health data.
Gov. Phil Murphy had a self-imposed goal of reaching that number by June 30.
Of those, less than 4.5 million were vaccinated in New Jersey, and the other more than 248,000 were vaccinated out of state or at a federal site. Public officials are dependent on the Johnson & Johnson shot, which is just one dose, and the Pfizer and Moderna shots, which are both two doses.
With Pfizer already having federal approval to use the vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, and Moderna looking for the greenlight for giving the shots to those between the ages of 12 and 18, state health officials are setting their sites on vaccinating younger crowds.
A total of 9.3 million doses have been administered to New Jerseyans, with an estimated 374,000 going to those between the ages of 12 and 17.
The shots are a key step to permanently lifting the myriad of restrictions on businesses, public gatherings and travel that have been in place over the past 15 months to halt the spread of the virus. Though, life in New Jersey has largely returned to its pre-pandemic self: Facemasks are no longer required in most businesses, and bars, malls, casinos, concert venues, sports arenas, restaurants, gyms and salons can open at full capacity.
Nationally, the Biden administration risks not reaching its goal of 70% of adults, 160 million people, being partially vaccinated by July 4. Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show just 65% of American adults have gotten at least one shot.
“We have always held that July 4th is not the end of it. We want to reach 70 percent of the adult population by the Fourth of July,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, said during a June 8 briefing. “And if we don’t, we’re going to continue to keep pushing.”
State and federal officials have emphasized that those with the vaccine face a much lower risk of infection than those without the shot. And in those cases where someone is infected who’s gotten the shot, the chance of hospitalization or death is much lower.
Murphy said at a press briefing earlier this week that the shots are more than 99% effective in preventing new infections, and “even stronger” in preventing serious cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“We no longer have a pandemic among the vaccinated. We have a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” Murphy said at a June 18 press conference at University Hospital in Newark, where the first COVID-19 shot was administered in mid-December.
‘This is not the end’
Vaccination rates have lagged among African American and Hispanic communities, which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic since its onset in March and suffered much higher fatality rates than white-majority communities.
Many Black and Brown New Jerseyans said they are still not willing to get the vaccine–and at a much higher rate than other demographics.
“This is not the end. This is not mission accomplished,” the governor added.
Seven of the state’s largest towns, which have majority people-of-color populations, – Phillipsburg, Pemberton, Lakewood, Irvington, New Brunswick, East Orange and Glassboro – all have less than 50% of their population vaccinated.
“We know that the disproportionate impact on communities of color is a lesson we should never forget,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at the press event. “The health disparities that existed before the pandemic were only amplified.”
At the start, interest in getting a shot was monumentally higher than the number of doses available. Now with many New Jerseyans who wanted a shot having gotten one, vaccination rates have lagged. And so the Murphy administration rolled out what it calls “Operation Jersey Summer.”
Efforts to encourage continued inoculations include intense public messaging, incentives, perks, bringing vaccine sites to local neighborhoods and sites like religious establishments, and outreach to communities of color.
And with an influx of COVID-19 variants and mutations, the jury is still out as to whether the vaccine will need to be an annual inoculation, as is the case with the flu shot.
“So we’re going to keep a lot of our infrastructure in place, because we may need it again,” Murphy said.