NJ Expands COVID Vaccine To 65 & Older, Those With Medical Issues

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Tom Davis
·6 min read
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NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday that New Jersey will expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution to seniors over the age of 65 and others with medical conditions, and he's going to add more sites for immunization.

The governor made the announcement during his 1 p.m. news conference, saying the expansion begins on Thursday (you can watch it here, below).

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state is also expanding vaccine distribution to anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 with medical conditions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those conditions are:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • COPD

  • Down syndrome

  • Heart conditions

  • Obesity

  • Sickle cell anemia

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Individuals who are pregnant

  • Those in an immunocompromised state and a weakened immune system because of issues such as an organ transplant

The governor asked people to "please be patient" as New Jersey is continuing to ramp up its distribution and "taking these steps in advance of increased vaccine dosage supply."

The expansion will cover at least 3 million additional people, officials said. Persichilli acknowledged that the number of smokers, which is about 2 million, "skew"' the numbers.

"Please be patient," Murphy said during the news conference. "We are in the 'if-you-build-it-they-will-come' mode and the 'they' are vaccine dosages."

The new groups were initially lower on the state's priority list, but Persichilli said the expansion is intended to "help us protect the most vulnerable among us."

She said 80 percent of the COVID-19 deaths have involved people who are 65 years and older, and 67 percent of the fatalities involved victims with one or more underlying conditions.

Earlier, Murphy told CNBC anyone who signs up today and is eligible to get the vaccine will likely get the shot within six to eight weeks.

Murphy said the vaccine will be available to anyone who lives, works or studies in New Jersey, but they have to make an appointment. He said he wants to avoid the situation that exists in Florida where seniors have had to "camp out."

Murphy said he's also been discussing the situation with hospitals and New Jersey is planning to open more vaccination sites very soon. Right now, he said, New Jersey has about 250 locations for the vaccine, but not all are open to the public. Read more: NJ's COVID Vaccine Totals, New Sites: See How Your Area Is Doing

"We had hospitals saying, 'We want to open to beyond our health care workers," Murphy said.

Murphy also said he's hoping that Walgreens can ramp up its distribution efforts and match that of CVS, which has been very progressive in getting the vaccine out. Both have helped get vaccines to long-term care facilities.

"We don't want to be caught flat-footed. The feds have undelivered in terms of supply," he said.

Watch Murphy here:

Previously, New Jersey provided vaccines to health-care professionals and long-term-care employees, along with some long-term care residents. Then, last week, New Jersey expanded availability for police and firefighters, signaling a shift from Phase 1A to 1B of New Jersey's vaccination plan. See more detail on each phase below.

State officials, however, didn't fully move into Phase 1B, which includes frontline essential workers and other high-risk groups.

Those over the age of 65 were also part of Phase 1C, but because of the high-risk they face, the group moved up the list, officials said.

The state has released a list that shows – in order – when everybody in New Jersey is supposed to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But officials haven't listed specific dates.

Murphy and health officials said the plan will continually be updated in response to the changing circumstances of the pandemic.

New Jersey's COVID-19 vaccination program aims to:

  • Provide equitable access to all who live, work, and/or are educated in New Jersey

  • Achieve community protection, assuming vaccine effectiveness, availability and uptake

  • Build sustainable trust in COVID-19 and other vaccines

The state's goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population – or 4.7 million adults – within six months.

Murphy said New Jersey is also developing a vaccine portal that will keep track of the immunization program. The site can be found here.

Registration for the vaccination has begun, and the current link (found here) from the state Department of Health has been available.

Here is the prioritization order for receiving the vaccine:

Phase 1A: Healthcare personnel

  • Hospital

  • LTC workers

  • Veteran’s home workers

  • Home care workers

  • Ambulatory and urgent care

  • clinic workers

  • Dialysis center workers

  • Dental office workers

  • Morticians and funeral home workers

  • Pharmacy workers

  • Other non-hospital healthcare facilities workers

  • Public health workers (such as those as federally qualified health centers)

  • Group home workers

  • Other paid and unpaid licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers

  • EMS personnel

  • Other healthcare settings

Phase 1A: Long-term care residents

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Veterans’ homes

  • Correctional facilities, prisons, juvenile centers, county jail

  • IDD group homes

  • Mental health group homes

  • Psychiatric hospitals

  • Other long-term care settings

Phase 1B: First responders

  • Police

  • Firefighters

  • Other first responders

Phase 1B: Other essential workers

  • Food-service workers

  • Port Authority workers

  • New Jersey Transit workers

  • Teachers, staff, and childcare workers

  • Workers who support radio, print, internet and television news and media services

  • Other critical workers

  • Other essential workers

Phase 1C: People at high-risk of COVID-19 illness

  • People at all ages with comorbid and underlying conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19 (such as, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, immuno-compromised, sickle cell disease)

  • People living or working in congregate or overcrowded settings – such as colleges and universities

  • People living or working in congregate or overcrowded settings – such as migrant workers

  • People living or working in congregate or overcrowded settings

  • Tribal populations

  • Other people at high risk of COVID-19 illness due to comorbidities, occupations, demographics, etc.

Phase 1C: Elderly

  • People over 65

Phase 2

  • General public

New Jersey also provided a timeline for the various groups and when they'll be vaccinated:

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This article originally appeared on the Warren Patch