The figure includes mostly front-line health care workers, according to the governor. An additional 120,000 doses has been set aside for long-term care residents and workers, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
That leaves a gap of about 180,000 doses, according to the commissioner. She said a lag in reporting – particularly among psychiatric facilities – partly explains why there’s such a gap, but also noted that department officials were hearing anecdotally that people didn’t want to risk taking the vaccine before the holidays in case there were negative side effects.
The news came as health care workers in New Jersey who were the first in the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine received their second doses Monday.
The vaccine roll out has been slow nationwide, but Governor Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli were on hand to watch the follow-up doses taking place at University Hospital in Newark.
BIG NEWS: We’ve exceeded 100,000 vaccinations statewide, with a current total of 101,417
This morning, frontline health care workers at @UnivHospNewark received their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, making them the FIRST New Jerseyans to be FULLY vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/y3SJkrpmk0
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) January 4, 2021
First up was Maritza Beniquez, a 56-year-old emergency room nurse who was the first to be vaccinated in New Jersey.
“I now have body armor,” Beniquez said. “Walking away now, I know that by the end of this month, I am 95% immune. 95% sure that I can kiss my grandchildren and not get sick. 95% sure that I can go and turn a patient, suction a patient, treat a patient. I am 95% sure that when I go to the restaurant, I won’t get sick. So this is, it’s a game-changer. And it’s my body armor.”
Beniquez said she expects to feel a little soreness at the injection site, and that after her first shot, she had a slight headache, but nothing more. She doesn’t expect anything different with the second dose.
“But again, if that’s the worst that I can expect, I’ll take that over an intubation any day of the week,” she said.
The state is still trying to inoculate as many frontline workers as possible, and in Paterson, officials have opened a new location to serve health care employees including those in practices like dentists and funeral homes.
Paterson leaders say the site will be open six days a week, and they are receiving more vaccines to meet the need. Still, they are in need of nurse volunteers to help administer the shots.
They say the sooner they get the vaccine to distributed to those in the medical field, the sooner they can move on to delivering the shot to those considered essential workers.
New Jersey reported nearly 500,000 positive cases, with 17,223 deaths, up 38 overnight, according to the governor.
Earlier Monday, Murphy and Persichilli attended the administration of the second of two doses of the vaccine to workers at University Hospital in Newark. The vaccine requires a shot and a follow-up either 21 days or 28 days later depending on which company’s vaccination is being used.
The state’s plan calls for vaccinating 70% of the adult population in six months.
Meanwhile, there is a potential game-changer with the Moderna vaccine.
They are now working with FDA on a plan to cut the doses in half for both shots, which would reach double the amount of people.
Research suggests the immune response is the same for younger populations of people from 18 to 55, and the change could speed up the vaccine rollout.
Meanwhile, in the UK, another COVID vaccine is being rolled out.
Approximately 500,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is now available to patients at a hospital in Oxford.
The vaccine is easier to transport and can be produced far more cheaply than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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