New Jersey will have its first doses of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine in place Tuesday and begin giving the first shots to frontline health care staff in Newark, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Sunday.
“I’ll be there Tuesday morning at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. We will begin vaccinating our heroic health care workers,” Murphy said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The first batch is 76,000 — split the majority toward health care workers, but a good slug toward our long-term care residents and staff,” the governor said.
It will take several weeks to get through administering the vaccines to health care workers and long-term care facility workers and residents, he added.
It may be months before the wider population has access to the vaccines in New Jersey, but the doses are coming.
“I think by April, May everyone will have access to one of these vaccines,” Murphy said.
In New Jersey, six “prepositioned hospitals” are already set to receive the first 76,050 doses, state Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said last week.
Persichilli has not named the hospitals, but they are expected to be AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, University Hospital in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
The first people to get the vaccine Tuesday morning will be at University Hospital’s new clinic at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, which will be able to give up to 600 vaccinations a day once doses arrive.
Each person will need to get two shots as the vaccine rolls out. New Jersey is still working out which groups will be eligible for the next wave of doses after front line health care workers get the shots.
The governor said there is a portion of the population that will not want to get the vaccine because they are concerned about its safety. But he said the vaccine is safe and effective.
“We believe in these vaccines. They’re safe, they work and we want people to get them,” Murphy said.
It is unclear when residents will begin getting the first vaccines at nursing homes and other long term care facilities in New Jersey.
“The latest information we have is that we will begin vaccinating as early as the week of Dec. 21. For obvious staff/patient privacy reasons, we are not releasing a list of facilities,” according to a statement Sunday from CVS, which is expected to help administer the vaccines at some New Jersey nursing homes and care facilities.
The first vaccine shipments left a Michigan facility Sunday, the Associated Press reported. Trucks at the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, were waiting to transport doses of the vaccine pulled from freezers and packed in cold storage containers.
Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, the company said.
On Friday, Murphy said New Jersey is ready to begin giving the vaccine to front line health care workers as soon as shipments arrive this week.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter,” Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted late Friday, shortly after the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for the vaccine.
Under the state’s rollout plans, 650,000 workers in healthcare facilities and long-term care facilities will be will be eligible under the first phase of vaccination, according to the commissioner. They include those who work in different kinds of healthcare facilities and long-term care facilities.
New Jersey’s goal is to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated as soon as possible, state officials said.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout Friday of the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
A second vaccine from Moderna is also slated for approval and could begin shipping soon. Next month, Johnson & Johnson is expected to finish up testing on its vaccine.
Despite the good news about the vaccines, Murphy said the next few weeks will be “hell” because of rising infection rates and people gathering for the holidays.
“We’re begging people to please, please, please don’t let your guard down even when you’re in private settings,” Murphy said.