New Jersey Expands COVID Vaccine Eligibility

By Aryaan

Over four million New Jersey adults are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after Governor Murphy expanded eligibility criteria. Prior to the expansion, only healthcare professionals and nursing home staff and residents, in addition to police officers and firefighters, were eligible to be vaccinated. 

This is in line with the CDC’s new vaccination guidelines which call for individuals aged 65 and over to be eligible to receive the vaccine. In addition, people with chronic medical conditions and smokers are now eligible. On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “You should assume we’ll be all over that and we’re going to open this up. I’m happy and gratified the CDC has come to the same conclusion. It’ll be very soon, in the next day or two.” 

Individuals who opt to be vaccinated will need to register for an appointment using the recently-launched New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System (NJVSS), or through an appointment scheduled with a proprietary hospital system. 

Vaccinations have been ongoing in New Jersey for over five weeks, and over a million residents have already used the NJVSS to schedule a vaccine appointment. Thus far, over 240,000 New Jersey residents have received the vaccine, though state officials hope to increase the rate of vaccinations. Governor Murphy has blamed insufficient supply from the federal government for the relatively low vaccination number, and also says that data are lagging behind true numbers.

The CDC has also advised states to not reserve second doses, which would mean that many more people can be vaccinated. However, this could potentially lead to a shortage of vaccines when three weeks pass and it is time to receive the second dose. Regardless, some analysts have said that the first dose provides a level of immunity that makes it worthwhile to vaccinate more people with one dose than fewer people with two doses. Nevertheless, the state will still aim to be able to give a second dose to everyone when the time comes. 

On the matter of second doses, Governor Murphy said, “It is somewhat if not largely based on the anticipation — not guarantee, but anticipation — of increased deliveries of vaccines as the federal government will no longer be holding back doses, we are confident in taking these steps. We have set the infrastructure we need to do this job and we are now ready to begin to ramp up our vaccination efforts exponentially.”