Everyone in New Jersey over the age of 16 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of April 19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at an April 5 COVID-19 press conference. That’s ahead of President Joe Biden’s May 1 goal of full eligibility for adults.
“Given the trajectory we are on, we believe this is the right time to put our program into higher gear,” Murphy said in his remarks.
As of Monday, the state opened eligibility to those over the age of 55, and those over the age of 16 with development and intellectual disabilities. A slew of job categories also became eligible for the vaccine as of Monday.
The goal is to fully vaccinate 70% of New Jersey adults – 4.7 million people – by June; a goal Murphy still argues is realistic. As of April 5, the state fully vaccinated just shy of 1.8 million people.
“Two months ago, on Feb. 5, we reported roughly 180,000 fully vaccinated individuals. One month later, on March 5, we reported 789,500. Or, nearly 610,000 in one month,” Murphy said.
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.
Murphy, a Democrat, assured that around Easter weekend, vaccine supply would explode for New Jerseyans, but a manufacturing error last week meant that 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine went to waste.
Modeling that state health officials presented last week offered a gloomy picture of a third wave that peaks between May and June, which Murphy described as a potential “long hot summer.” A less severe scenario calls for a peak in mid-April, and a “best-case” scenario offered Monday calls for those numbers plateauing until mid-April, and then trending downwards over the summer.
And so the race is to vaccinate enough people to build herd immunity against the virus, as well as a more contagious strain first detected in the United Kingdom. There are three vaccines being given: the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson version that requires a single dose.
Biden, a fellow Democrat, has pleaded for governors to halt their state’s reopening in order to counter these new surges. But, Murphy nonetheless relaxed many restrictions in recent weeks, including this week when he relaxed the capacity at indoor and outdoor venues like concert arenas, and raised the outdoor gathering capacity.