Nearly half of New Jerseayns said they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available, according to a poll released Tuesday, as public confidence and a faulty supply chain threaten to drag out when the public could return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle.
Forty-seven percent of New Jerseyans said they would “probably” or “definitely” not get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. The majority of those respondents said they were worried about the side effects of the vaccine, or that they needed more information about it.
Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna announced this month that their vaccine candidates have shown promising enough results that they’ll seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.
The nation’s nine largest drugmakers in September signed a joint letter promising that their vaccine development would not be politically motivated, at a time when they faced pressure from President Donald Trump for a vaccine announcement ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“There is pressure but I think the industry communication was to reinforce the fact that they’re not responding to any kind of pressure,” Debbie Hart, founding president and chief executive officer of BioNJ, the state’s trade group for the pharmaceutical industry, said in an interview that month. “The process is just being expedited, but no steps are being cut.”
“It is likely that public opinion on immunization will continue to shift and evolve,” Ashley Koning, the center’s director, said in the Tuesday report, in which 1,001 New Jersey adults were interview on the phone between Oct. 18 and 24. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
“But right now, a large portion of New Jerseyans are still wary, which makes any future messaging encouraging vaccination that much more important.”
Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said they expect large-scale distribution of the vaccine in April or May.
Those vaccines, they’ve argued, are vital to driving down the spread of the virus, which is in the midst of a second wave both in New Jersey and across the nation.
And that timeline lines up with one laid out by outgoing-President Donald Trump: that the nation would have up to 30 million vaccine doses by the end of the year, and then that amount each month.
“As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population,” Trump said during a Nov. 13 public appearance.
The Murphy administration’s goal is to get 70% of New Jersey adults vaccinated within 6 months, compared to the 50% flu vaccination rate among adults, Persichilli said. That could mean 81,000 people a day, five days a week.
“We have to get back in front of this virus as best we can right now, so when a vaccine – or multiple vaccines – are ready for wide scale distribution in what we hope is just a matter of a few months we are in a stronger position for our vaccination program to work,” Murphy said at a Monday press conference.
Vulnerable communities like the elderly, and front line health care workers, would be among the first in New Jersey to get the vaccine, Murphy suggested, once a “first batch” arrives “maybe by the end of the year.”
“The federal government will likely provide guidance on the prioritization of the limited quantities, but it will be up to the states to determine the exact allocation,” Persichilli said in late October.
That first allotment would come out to roughly 100,000 doses, which would cover 50,000 people because it requires two injections roughly a month apart, she added.
A nine-team Vaccine Task Force within the health department will focus on logistics, where the vaccine would be distributed, and “cold chain management.” Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, after all, have to be stored in sub-Arctic temperatures.
Early phase distribution centers would include acute care hospitals, local health departments, retail pharmacies, doctor’s offices, primary care clinics, and mobile and static urgent care centers.