NJ Reaches 70% Vaccine Goal — Now What?
4.7 million New Jersey adults have now been fully vaccinated. It's a goal that seemed virtually impossible to reach just a few short months ago when the first vaccine doses arrived in the Garden State.
Emergency Room nurse Maritza Beniquez was the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccine on December 16, 2020, at University Hospital in Newark. Governor Phil Murphy will return to the hospital today to make the formal announcement that New Jersey has reached the goal he set when vaccinations began.
On Wednesday, Murphy proclaimed the pandemic was over, if you have been vaccinated. “There is only a pandemic among those who have yet to get their shot,” Murphy said.
Getting to the 70% goal has not been easy. The pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably in recent weeks, and the state has been offering incentives ranging from free beer and wine to dinner with the governor. Initially, vaccine was hard to come by and scheduling an appointment was difficult. As the state opened six regional vaccination mega-sites, the pace of inoculation topped 188,000 per day. Now, the state has closed the mega-sites and most can just walk in to a local pharmacy to get the shot.
Reaching the vaccination goal is critical to keeping New Jersey's re-opening and recovery on track. Restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings have been lifted and the public health emergency has expired. The legislature, however, has allowed Governor Murphy to retain many of his pandemic powers, including the ability to impose new restrictions if COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations rise. Medical experts say the best way to prevent that is the reduce the number of hosts for the virus to infect, and the best way to accomplish that is through vaccinations.
Despite fully inoculating 4.7 million New Jersey residents, efforts to encourage more to get the shot will continue. State and federal health officials have been targeting areas where vaccination rates are lagging. The Murphy administration has identified multiple municipalities where vaccination rates were lagging. Efforts are also increasing to convince parents to get their adolescent children vaccinated. Murphy has also said once the 70% goal was reached, he was likely to set new goals for New Jersey, but he has not said what those will be.