How will New Jersey distribute a COVID-19 vaccine? Is there a plan?
Currently, vaccines are available to those who are in Category 1A which includes paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and long-term care residents and staff.
Once vaccine availability expands, essential workers, which fall into Category 1B, will be able to get vaccinated.
The next category of individuals, Category 1C, are adults 65 and over and adults with underlying medical conditions.
After these phases are complete, the general public will be eligible for vaccination.
For more information about the phased approach and priority groups, refer to this Health Department document.
Vaccinations began on December 15th in New Jersey hospitals for paid and unpaid persons serving in their health facilities.
Vaccinations of long-term care residents and staff are expected to begin on December 28th through the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program with Walgreens and CVS.
Six mega sites throughout New Jersey will serve as vaccination hubs for phased priority groups, part of a critical network of over 200 sites tasked with carrying out the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan fairly and equitably:
- Atlantic County: Atlantic City Convention Center
- Bergen County: Racetrack at Meadowlands, East Rutherford
- Burlington County: Moorestown Mall
- Gloucester County: Rowan College of South Jersey, Sewell
- Middlesex County: New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, Edison
- Morris County: Rockaway Townsquare
The six state-coordinated sites are expected to begin opening in early January and will immediately be in position to vaccinate front-line healthcare workers and then continue in a phased approach depending on the supply of vaccine to New Jersey. After these phases are complete, then the general public will be eligible for vaccination. The timing of the progression among the groups depends on the supply of vaccine to the state.
The Health Department will announce an online portal to enable the various groups in the initial phases and eventually the general public to find a vaccination site and register and schedule an appointment. Some vaccination sites may offer walk-up/on-site registration as well.
More Information About New Jersey's Vaccination Plan
The Department of Health has a COVID-19 Vaccination webpage that includes FAQs, the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, and a new "Vax Matters" newsletter with information about the vaccine and vaccine distribution.
The Department is finalizing a public dashboard which will show doses administered and some demographic information. Data will be updated weekly and refined over time.
How much vaccine New Jersey will receive will depend on several factors including the population of essential and healthcare workers, current spread or prevalence of the disease, and vaccine availability. As of mid-December,the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and Moderna has applied for an EUA from the FDA for their vaccine. For more details on the vaccine approval process, refer to this infographic.
Executive Order No. 207 changes inclusion into the New Jersey Immunization Information System (NJIIS) from an opt-in to an opt-out program for any resident who chooses to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. This means that individuals who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to first opt-in to the system to make sure that their two-dose regimen is properly tracked and managed. 30 days after the current public health emergency ends, individuals who enrolled due to the COVID-19 vaccine will be afforded the opportunity to withdraw from the system. The Executive Order does not force anyone to receive the vaccine.
The Department of Health's vaccination plan calls for an all-of-government approach to a wide-scale vaccination program, and aims to:
- Provide equitable access to a vaccine
- Achieve maximum community protection
- Build public trust
The Department of Health has been working to ensure an equitable wide-scale vaccination program since July and established the New Jersey Department of Heath COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force with nine teams.
In addition, a Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) meets weekly to monitor the progress of vaccine development and ensure that all discussions are made through the lens of equity.
Commissioner Persichilli convened the PAC in March to provide guidance to the Department to ensure that its COVID-19 response is based on the latest scientific, medical, ethical, and public health evidence. The 28 public members and its subcommittees include healthcare leaders, academics, infectious and chronic disease healthcare practitioners, former commissioners, epidemiologists, quality experts, local health and equity leaders and ethicists representing geographic, demographic, and professional diversity.
The Department of Health reminds the public that information about COVID-19 and the vaccines currently in development is still evolving and that the Department will continue to release information as it becomes available. The Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccination plan has been partly informed by the state's experience with pandemic influenza vaccination during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
On December 10th, the Department of Health issued guidance to the all acute care hospitals to help prepare for vaccine deployment.