Health care workers at University Hospital in Newark will be among the first in New Jersey to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Phil Murphy announced over the weekend.
“I’ll be there Tuesday morning at University Hospital in Newark,” Murphy said during a Sunday television appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “It’s going to be a big day on Tuesday morning in Newark.”
Sheriff Elnahal, chief executive officer for University Hospital and the previous state health commissioner, called the planned Tuesday event “the beginning of the last chapter in this pandemic.”
Over the weekend, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer began shipping out 2.9 million doses to vaccination sites across the country, roughly half of what global drugmaker promised, in order to monitor this week’s roll-out of the vaccine.
Last week Pfizer received emergency federal approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Drugmaker Moderna will be seeking the same federal approval this week for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Both require two separate shots, spaced roughly a month apart.
The state is receiving the first batch of 76,000 COVID-19 doses this week, Murphy said. A “majority” will go to health care workers, he said, while a “good slug” will also go to residents and staff at long-term care centers, such as senior centers and veteran’s homes.
“Those are the top priorities, and it will take us a number of weeks” to get the vaccine “to the entire population in both of those groups.”
After this first segment of the population, known as “1a” under the state’s vaccination plan, comes “1b,” which includes essential workers, and at-risk populations like those over the age of 65, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“[T]hose larger populations will then be dealt with,” by a combination of the weekly Pfizer and Moderna shipments, the governor told ABC. “I think of it as overlapping waves. We’ll be doing…the second shot for health care workers, long-term care residents as we’re beginning first shots for the broader populations of that 1b group.”
The general populace, however, could end up waiting several months, to the late spring or early summer, cautioned state health officials.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that the state’s goal is to get 70% of the state’s adult population vaccinated within six months.
The vaccination process is a key component to begin containing the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Thursday infected over 389,000 New Jerseyans and claimed almost 16,000 lives.
Daily cases have hit all-time record highs since Thanksgiving, as the state finds itself well within a second wave.
While that increase is partially due to vastly ramped up testing capacity compared to what New Jersey had in the spring, metrics such as hospitalizations, ventilator-usage, critical care patient count and daily fatalities have all moved in alarming directions.