By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
SOUTH JERSEY — Over the long weekend, New Jersey reached its long-coveted goal of fully vaccinating 4,700,000 adult residents. It did so a little less than two weeks before its self-imposed deadline of June 30, which was set when the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort began in December of last year.
As of Monday morning, New Jersey had put two vaccine doses — or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson model — in 4,801,626 people who live, work, or study in New Jersey. The state has administered a total of 9,435,844 COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 5,234,717 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine statewide. The 4.7 million figure represents 70% of New Jersey’s adult population.
“Before the arrival of vaccines in mid-December, our Administration set one of the most aggressive vaccination goals in the country,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a press release. “Reaching our milestone of 4.7 million fully vaccinated individuals who live, work, or study in New Jersey in a little more than six months required a comprehensive statewide approach, with strong partnerships across all levels of government, the private sector, and in our communities. … While we are celebrating this remarkable achievement, our work is not yet finished, and we must continue working together to vaccinate all eligible individuals to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
New Jersey’s effort to inoculate its population against the worst pandemic seen on Earth in more than a century began with front-line health care workers and the elderly, and eligibility was slowly, but surely expanded to the general population over the last six months. After months of only essential workers being allowed to receive the vaccine, New Jersey expanded its COVID-19 vaccination effort to the general public on April 19.
The COVID-19 vaccines have, to put it bluntly, worked. The state has rolled back most of its COVID-19-related safety restrictions and precautions, including capacity limits on businesses and public gatherings. Vaccinated residents have, for all intents and purposes, been able to live their lives normally, but unvaccinated residents are strongly encouraged to continue taking precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
Both the state of New Jersey and privately-owned businesses in the state haven’t served as “vaccine police,” either. Like many states that have hit their vaccination goals, New Jersey is taking a laissez-faire, honor system approach to its loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
Throughout its vaccination effort, New Jersey has offered a number of incentive programs to encourage vaccinations among community members. The “Grateful for the Shot” program, for example, aimed to utilize religious leaders in certain communities to encourage residents to get inoculated, while others — such as the state granting free access to state parks for anyone who got vaccinated and the lighter, if not cheesier “Shot for a Beer” program — offered tangible “rewards” to those who rolled up their sleeves.
It was once said that at the end of every storm is a golden sky. Although COVID-19 is still considered a global pandemic, New Jersey can say it took one step towards the end of its own storm by reaching this significant vaccine milestone.
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