First COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Arrive in New Jersey, Gov. Murphy Expects ‘Much More Robust’ Distribution in Coming Weeks

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

TRENTON, N.J. — The first COVID-19 vaccines have officially arrived in New Jersey after the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s vaccine over the weekend.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy spent his Tuesday morning at the University Hospital in Newark, which is where Maritza Beniquez became the first person in the state to receive the vaccine. Gov. Murphy and Judy Persichilli, the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Health, said on Monday that the state will receive an initial shipment of 76,050 doses of the vaccine with “hundreds of thousands more” arriving in the coming weeks.

“This is a start, but it is just the first drops in a really big bucket,” Gov. Murphy said at his coronavirus briefing on Monday afternoon. “We know we will have to ensure the steady supply that we’ve been preparing for and we know that we’ll have to work against vaccine misinformation and skepticism. I want to play on Winston Churchill’s words that this is not the end. The summer was, I think, the end of the beginning but now we hope that we are now at the beginning of the end, which will take some number of months to play out.”

Of the first 76,050 vaccines, “about 20,000” will go to residents in long-term care facilities, according to Persichilli. The remaining 54,000 will be sent to hospitals for front-line healthcare workers. Persichilli said that the amount of doses the state is set to receive will be confirmed every Saturday, but she expects about 86,000 more doses of the vaccine to arrive in New Jersey next week. Fifty-three hospitals across the state will receive doses of the vaccine this week. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines require two doses taken over the course of a few weeks.

In addition to Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is expected to receive emergency use authorization later this week. Persichilli anticipates that, after its approval, New Jersey will receive 154,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine in its first shipment. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna’s doesn’t need to be stored in “ultra-cold” conditions, so the state has more flexibility in distributing it.

Gov. Murphy reiterated the state’s plans regarding who gets priority for vaccine distribution that were initially released in October. He said that healthcare workers and long-term facility care residents will be prioritized as the COVID-19 vaccines begin to arrive in New Jersey.

The news of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arriving in New Jersey is undoubtedly exciting and a massive step towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic, it is nowhere near over yet. Gov. Murphy once again urged residents to remain vigilant and cautious throughout the winter.

“So even though we can now point to a vaccine, we cannot give up on the practices that will help us through: social distancing, wearing our masks, washing our hands, staying at home when we don’t feel well, and using common sense and going out at the right moment in time for the right reasons, and get tested,” Gov. Murphy said. “This is how we save lives this winter as we begin the process of vaccinating as many people as we can, as effectively as we can, and as soon as we can.”

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has begun throughout the United States, many have raised concerns about the vaccine’s safety. However, the FDA released analysis on Tuesday that claims the Moderna vaccine works at a 94% effectiveness rate, and the analysis also stated there are no specific safety concerns regarding the vaccine.

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