COVID Vaccine Won’t Be Mandatory, Murphy Admin Says

Source: NJ Biz Online

The Murphy administration has continually maintained that widespread vaccination against COVID-19 would be incumbent for life in New Jersey to resume a semblance of the pre-pandemic world. The goal of state health officials is to have 70% of New Jersey adults vaccinated against the virus within six months of its release.

But, taking the vaccine won’t be mandatory, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

“What we’re hoping is through public awareness, education, bringing in partners to help us reach … diverse groups through the state, that people will make a choice to be vaccinated,” she said at a virtually-held COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, alongside Gov. Phil Murphy.

“We have to do our job and our role of making sure that it’s a safe and efficacious vaccine,” he added, promising that New Jersey “will be ready.”

Nine of the nation’s largest drug manufacturers are racing to have a vaccine available. Persichilli said that would likely be finished by the end of 2020 or in first three months of 2021. The development will likely depend on an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clear red tape and other regulatory hurdles, the health commissioner added.

“The federal government is likely to provide a limited number of vaccine doses in their first allotment” and the quantity of vaccines allocated to New Jersey “depends on the population of essential health care workers, current spread or prevalence of the disease,” according to Persichilli.

State health officials would prioritize “those at highest risk of infection, our vulnerable communities, and those for whom early inoculation would have the greatest benefit,” and then “build out from there,” the governor said.

The state’s interim COVID-19 vaccination plan, submitted this month to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attempts to grapple with just how the vaccine could be administered to a sizable portion of New Jersey’s nearly 9 million residents.

Vials of the drug would have to be in a certain kind of cold storage, adding another layer of headache, Persichilli said. And they could require a two-dose regimen, with the second coming three to four weeks after the first. If those vaccines were to be rolled out, according to the plan state health officials would need a count on residents that have gotten the first dose to ensure they receive the second as well.

The plan calls for a phased approach: Phase One entails a “significant vaccine scarcity,” Phase Two “supply meeting demand,” and Phase Three “slowing public demand.”

State health officials have to consider vulnerable and under-served residents – including typically lower-income “working families” and uninsured or under-insured residents – and how to get the vaccines to them.

And the state has to ensure federal, state and local public health bureaucracies are effectively communicating with each other while navigating red tape.

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