NJ’s lofty COVID-19 goal: Vaccinate 70% of the population
State officials have been working for about two months now on a mass vaccination plan to protect against the novel coronavirus, if and when a vaccine’s ready.
“Our goal, if I may, is pretty high,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing Monday. “It’s to get 70% of the population between five and six months, which would require us to have enough points of distribution and administration to vaccinate between five and six thousand people a day.”
That daily rate seems like it could be an understatement, unless it refers only to identified priority populations, as that amounts to around 1.1 million doses in six months in a state of nearly 9 million people.
Persichilli said the state expects the first vaccine to be available under what’s called an ‘emergency use approval’ that will also specifically identity priority populations to receive it.
“We do not believe that we’ll have enough vaccine in the very beginning to inoculate everyone that is even identified as a priority population,” she said. “So, a lot of decision-making will be made around that allocation, as well, and we’re working on that.”
The state Department of Health plans to spend $6 million to increase the staffing needed to oversee large-scale coronavirus vaccination programs, Persichilli said. A committee and nine subcommittees have been making plans, such as how it will be distributed.
“We’ll be working with our LINCS agencies, our local health departments, our pediatricians, our pharmacists. The list goes on,” she said. “We’ve identified all of the stakeholders from all the possible distribution sites.”
Persichilli said the state has the money needed all the way to the point people get the shot in the arm. But she said it might also need funds to buy equipment to keep the vaccines cold and the computer technology to track who’s gotten inoculated.
Persichilli was asked at the hearing if the shots would be mandated by the government.
“That decision’s not been and won’t be made by us. That decision is not ours,” Persichilli said. “I’ve not heard anything about mandating vaccinations, at this point in time.”
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll conducted in June found 66% of New Jersey adults said they will definitely or likely get vaccinated but 30% say they probably or definitely will not.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.