COVID-19 Vaccine Program in New Jersey Set When Approval is Given

State officials rolled out New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination plan when one becomes available, designed to provide equitable access, achieve maximum community protection and build public trust in advance of an approved vaccine.

“The strategic and efficient deployment of a vaccine will be critical to our continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and is a key tool in our recovery,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing Oct. 26. “While we will welcome one or more COVID-19 vaccines, we are not going to simply rush forward. We will be as methodical and deliberate in our approaches to a vaccination plan, as we have in every aspect of our responses over the past eight months.”

New Jersey submitted its draft COVID-19 vaccination plan to the CDC on Oct. 16. The plan calls for an all-of-government approach to a wide-scale vaccination program. Several vaccines are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials, including those requiring a two-dose regimen, 21-28 days apart.

Limited Allotment

Persichilli noted the initial allotment of vaccine to states is expected to be limited, with priority for healthcare workers, essential workers and vulnerable populations, including those 65 and older.

 “The department’s vaccine plan is expected to evolve over time as more details about vaccine availability, timelines, distribution, funding resources, and supplies are released,” said Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “Our aspirational goal for a wide-scale vaccination program for New Jersey is to vaccinate 70% of the adult population in a six-month period.” Comparatively, during the last flu season, 50% of the population in the state received the vaccine.

An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to facilitate the availability of unapproved medical products to be used to prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.

Available in Coming Months

“To date there is no globally approved COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is an expectation that a vaccine will become available either by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year under an EUA pre-approval,” stated Persichilli.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) 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 vaccines development and ensure that all discussions are made through the lens of equity. 

Persichilli convened the PAC in March to provide guidance to the NJDOH 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. 

Task Force Focus

The nine focus areas of NJDOH’s Vaccine Task Force are:

  • Logistics and points of dispensing/delivery including local partnerships, state & mobile sites; cold chain management and personal protection equipment and supply requirements;
  • Federal interoperability, IT and data flow management to monitor and track all doses delivered and administered;
  • Specific population planning for vulnerable, high risk & essential workers;
  • Enabling policies for directives or other regulatory or policy tools;
  • Management and administration for workforce, contracting and budgeting;
  • Analytics and reporting;
  • Strategic communication; and
  • Public confidence to include stakeholder calls, bringing up a call center for questions and a public awareness campaign.

The PAC is chaired by former Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Dr. Eddy Bresnitz. After leaving the NJDOH, he spent nearly a decade at Merck in Global Vaccine Medical Affairs.

“The multi-disciplinary PAC team has been working diligently to incorporate the recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice on allocation of vaccines to the people in the state,” said Dr. Bresnitz.

Daily Data

As of Oct. 27, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 231,331 with 1,663 new cases reported and 14 new deaths, bringing that total to 14,517. The state listed probable deaths at 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,292.

For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 219 new cases, Hudson 181 new cases, Bergen 152 new cases, Passaic 107 new cases, Morris 84 new cases, Sussex 12 new cases and Warren eight new cases.

State officials noted nine deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,912, followed by Bergen at 1,815, Hudson with 1,371, Passaic at 1,120, Morris at 691, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 230, Hudson has 159, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 22 was 4.5%. By region, the North has a rate of 5.1%, Central at 3.6% and the South at 4.4%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.26 from 1.23 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 957 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 493 in the North, 240 in the Central and 224 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 182 are in intensive care units and 68 on ventilators, while 63 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 24,795, followed by Essex at 24,177, Hudson at 22,837, Middlesex at 21,939, Passaic at 20,662, Union at 19,918, Ocean at 16,605, Monmouth at 13,892, Camden at 11,407, Mercer at 9,220, Morris at 9,002, Burlington at 8,334, Somerset at 6,411, Gloucester at 5,467, Atlantic at 5,091, Cumberland at 3,986, Sussex at 1,692, Warren at 1,570, Hunterdon at 1,569, Salem at 1,166 and Cape May at 1,111.

Another 480 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 25 outbreaks involving 111 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State, up from 22 outbreaks involving 83 cases a week previous. For North Jersey, Bergen County has three confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, Hudson County has one confirmed outbreak with four cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 167 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,670 of the cases, broken down between 2,642 residents and 2,028 staff. 

Cumulatively, 793 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,562 residents and 14,043 staff, for a total of 39,605 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,213 on Oct. 27. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,841 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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