New Jersey added a host of new eligibility categories for those who are now able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as state and federal health officials race to inoculate enough individuals to reverse the latest wave of cases and hospitalizations.
The additions on April 5 are another major push toward the state’s goal of opening eligibility to adults ages 16 and over, ahead of President Joe Biden’s May 1 deadline. They are also a part of a much broader bid to vaccinate 4.7 million adults by June. So far, 1.7 million adults – less than 20% of the state population – have been fully vaccinated.
Biden has promised the nation would return to a large semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy by the July 4 Independence Day weekend, and announced on March 29 that 90% of Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by mid-April.
On April 5, eligibility expanded to residents at least 55 years of age, and those 16 and older with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Dozens of professions and job types are also now eligible including higher education staff; communications support workers and members of the press; real estate, building and home service workers such as on construction, plumbing, code enforcement and property management; and retail financial workers like bank tellers, check-cashing and public accounting.
Laundry service workers are eligible, such as at laundromats and dry cleaners, as are librarians and support staff, sanitation workers and utility workers such as at power plants, natural gas, water supply and telecommunications.
Those already eligible for vaccination include health care workers and other frontline employees, and those with one of the dozens of eligible medical conditions.
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.
Gov. Phil 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 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.
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.