New Jersey

As NJ Looks for More COVID-19 Doses, Officials Are Urging People to Get 2nd Doses

On Wednesday, New Jersey also announced six more cases of the UK variant of the coronavirus, including the first death of a person with the variant in the state

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Gov. Phil Murphy keeps pushing for more coronavirus vaccine doses as New Jersey looks to ramp up the number of people getting vaccinated each day. He is also reminding people to make sure they get the second booster shot.

Health officials on Wednesday urged people to come back for the second dose to get the full benefits of the vaccine.

At his COVID-19 news briefing, Murphy and state health officials explained the different ways that second doses will be scheduled, ideally within three to four weeks of the first shot.

"If you made your first dose appointment directly with a vaccine site and did not book your second dose appointment at the time of your first shot, contact the vaccine site," Murphy said.

"If you made your first dose through an appointment made via, your second dose appointment has been automatically scheduled – you will receive a confirmation email within the next several days."

He said that if it comes to the weekend and you still need to know when you will be getting a second dose, you can call the state's hotline at 855-568-0545 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to get help with scheduling.

The Biden administration should make manufacturing more COVID-19 vaccines its primary focus as it confronts the coronavirus pandemic, Murphy said in a recent interview.

The Democrat said that's basically all New Jersey needs at this point.

Murphy spoke Monday afternoon with The Associated Press and said that New Jersey, like other states around the country, is grappling with too few vaccines to meet the demand.

“Manufacture," he said, pausing briefly when asked what he would tell President Joe Biden the most urgent need is for states. “The top of the list right now has got to be ramping up the manufacture of vaccine doses.”

Murphy reiterated his call for more vaccines at his Wednesday news briefing.

"We, like every other state, need greatly increased vaccine production and delivery," he said. "We just need the doses to make our program run as it has been purpose-built to run."

In the meantime, Murphy continues to call for "patience."

Cases, COVID-19 Variants and Deaths in New Jersey

The lack of supply has emerged as a central concern about gaining control over the virus, which has resulted in the deaths of more 19,000 New Jersey residents (107 new deaths announced Wednesday), more than 606,000 PCR test-confirmed infections and almost 2 million unemployment claims in the state.

The rate of positivity on Saturday was 12.62%, Murphy said. The rate of transmission as of Monday had dipped to 0.91.

Nearly 3,200 people were hospitalized with coronavirus as of Monday night, with nearly 600 patients in intensive care.

On Wednesday, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced six new cases of the UK variant in New Jersey, which was first confirmed in the state last week. The new cases were in people ranging from ages 10 to 65. One of the people with the variant died, Persichilli said. That person had preexisting conditions that made them more vulnerable.

The state has now reported at least eight cases of the new strain.

Questions Over Vaccine Supply

The supply question underpins nearly everything else, especially the rollout of vaccine eligibility. Murphy has put it this way: The state has more than 200 distribution sites, including six mass vaccination sites; it has determined millions of residents are eligible, but “all we are missing are vaccine doses.”

Moderna, the maker of one of two vaccines currently being administered, said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to have 100 million doses for the U.S. by the end of the first quarter, and 200 million by the end of the second. Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo said in an email that the company will work with the Biden White House on a distribution model. The company's CEO said Tuesday it will deliver 200 million doses to the U.S. government by the end of May.

On Tuesday, Biden announced the federal government was purchasing enough vaccines to protect 300 million Americans, as well as surging doses to the states by an increase of about 16% over the coming weeks.

It's been a week since Biden's inauguration, but Murphy says he's already spoken with the president, his advisers and Dr. Anthony Fauci about the response to the pandemic. What sticks out to Murphy as novel is access to officials and what he called “straight” information.

Stopping short of accusing the previous administration of lying, Murphy, on Monday, pointed out that the vaccine shipments that reached New Jersey were lower than what the state was told to expect.

“Even if it’s bad news, they’re telling you whether you want to hear it," he said. “It's just a big turn of the page."

New Jersey is currently receiving about 100,000 doses of the vaccine a week, but needs closer to about 500,000 in order to meet demand, health officials have said.

As of Wednesday, more than 640,000 doses have been administered in the state.

Murphy, who is running for reelection this year, expressed Monday optimism that supply would be ramped up with relief coming by the unofficial start of summer.

“We think we are peaking as we speak," he said. “You get through into the second quarter. I’ve been talking about Memorial Day lately because it’s one of our favorite holidays because we open the shore Memorial Day weekend. ... If I'm wrong it’s only a question of degree. I don’t think it’s a question of we missed that by six months."

He spoke about hopes for more doses soon, again on Wednesday.

"We’re optimistic about all the signs coming from the White House – especially the announcements yesterday that we will be seeing an increase in our vaccine allocation as well as receiving a three-week look ahead as to how many doses will be coming to our state."

On Wednesday, Murphy said over the next three weeks they have been told they will be getting 130,000 doses weekly.

New Jersey officials also said Wednesday that people should get vaccinated even if they already had COVID-19.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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