NJ has used one in four COVID vaccine doses received, lags behind national average
New Jersey's vaccination effort continued to move slowly over the holiday weekend, with 25% of the state's allotment being administered so far to health care workers and nursing home residents, state officials said Monday.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said she expects the pace of vaccinations to pick up. Of the 405,000 doses sent to New Jersey's 200 vaccination sites, 101,417 have been administered.
"I think people after the holidays will be lining up," Persichilli said. "We had gotten anecdotal information that people did not want to get vaccinated during the holidays in case they didn't feel well."
New Jersey lags behind the national average of 30% of distributed vaccines being used, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q&A on COVID vaccine in NJ:Who gets it first? When can I sign up? Where can I get the shot?
The slow rollout has been frustrating to a public eager to end the pandemic.
Laura LaBarbera, the practice administrator of Advanced Laparoscopic Surgeons of Morris in Florham Park, said her practice has tried to make appointments but has been told that three of the four sites in Morris County are booked through January.
"My registered dietitian was finally able to schedule today — for an appointment in April," she said. "My medical assistants have not been able to schedule at all."
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Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy said a lack of personnel — along with logistics and timing issues — were to blame despite months of planning.
On Monday, Persichilli said the state is seeking help from anyone certified to give inoculations to volunteer through the state Medical Reserve Corps and help with the vaccine distribution. She said recently retired people with the certification are particularly suited to step up.
"We do need vaccinators," she said.
About 120,000 doses have been set aside for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. As of Monday, about 8,000 nursing home residents and staff had received their initial shots.
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The rollout at nursing homes is expected to increase from 69 facilities to 193 facilities this week. Persichilli said she expects all participating nursing home residents and staff to be vaccinated by the end of the month. More than 7,000 residents and staff have died from COVID-19 — about 40% of New Jersey's death toll.
About 1.1% of New Jersey's 8.9 million residents have received their first COVID vaccination shot, compared with 1.4% nationally, according to CDC data.
That puts New Jersey in the bottom half of states, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
Republicans criticized Murphy, a Democrat, on Monday over the slow rollout and missing a key deadline that delayed the administering of vaccines to nursing homes by a week.
“Governor Murphy tried shifting blame to the feds after states had their allocations of the vaccine reduced, but he hasn’t even used the doses he was given,” said Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Totowa. “At some point he has to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for these mounting failures."
Two vaccine "mega-sites" are scheduled to open this week at Rockaway Townsquare Mall in Morris County and Rowan College in Gloucester County. They will each administer 1,000 vaccines a week to health care workers.
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ShopRite will begin distributing COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers at 39 of its pharmacies statewide. Health care workers who want to find out which locations are participating or who want to make an appointment can go to vaccines.shoprite.com.
The doses allocated for New Jersey go straight to the vaccine sites. "There is no stockpiling by us," Persichilli said.
On Monday, front-line health care workers at University Hospital in Newark received their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
Meanwhile, LaBarbera said her staff does not know how they will get their shots.
"We received the list of available sites on the 31st," she said. "We have been trying to make appointments ever since. Essex County had available appointments, but only if you live or work in Essex County. If you live and work in Morris County you cannot schedule there."
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.