Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will emphasize equity and prioritize the same populations it did when coronavirus testing was initially scarce as it prepares for the eventual rollout of a vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week sent a letter to governors asking them to speed up the approval of vaccine distribution centers by Nov. 1. Murphy said he hopes one is ready “sooner than later” but expects it to be in the first or second quarter of 2021, not within two months.

“That’s a date that’s ahead of any of the conversations that we’ve had with the manufacturers or other medical experts. And as you can imagine during this crisis, we speak to them all the time,” Murphy said in a Facebook Live town hall meeting. “If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be the happiest guy in New Jersey if not America. That feels aggressive as a time frame based on our conversations.”

Murphy said the priority for vaccines “can’t just go to the highest bidder.”

“Equity again is a huge part of this,” Murphy said. “Getting to vulnerable communities early on is a huge imperative, such as long-term care, such as our corrections population. Getting to our front-line workers early on, so that’s health-care and other essential workers, law enforcement, fire, etc.”

“But if you look at the hierarchy that we have put out there now for many months on where our scarce testing resources go and the order, the priorities, my guess, is that we’d match that largely,” he said.

Murphy alluded to the racial disparities of COVID-19 cases. Black people have accounted for nearly 17% of cases, and Hispanics have accounted for 30%.

“Equity, equity, equity has got to be a part of this because again COVID-19 did not create these inequities but it sure as heck has laid them bare,” he said.

Murphy said he thinks therapeutics and vaccines will both arrive soon, though perhaps not by November.

“This is not a forever and always circumstance we’re in,” Murphy said. “There will be therapeutics developed for COVID-19 – not just something, ‘Hey, it works on malaria, let’s try it on COVID-19’ – but that will be developed, I believe sooner than later, I can’t promise when, that will be developed for COVID-19. Like Tamiflu or like a Z-Pak. You have strep throat, this is what you take.”

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