New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine moved closer to approval by federal authorities, with state officials forecasting the doses could be ready for distribution in New Jersey by the second week of March.
The company’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine appears safe and effective, particularly against severe disease, though questions remain about how well it works in older people, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine was 66.1% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease and appeared safe.
More importantly, according to Garden State health officials who reviewed the data, there were no new hospitalizations after 28 days in people vaccinated, while in the placebo group there were 29. Additionally, J&J released new information suggesting the vaccine might help reduce asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the one-shot J&J vaccine is a “game-changer” that will expand vaccination coverage in the state. Aside from effectiveness and only needing a single dose, the governor noted the logistics of delivering the shot is easier as it does not require ultracold temperatures.
“A one-dose vaccine with regular refrigeration, I can’t say overnight you’re in doctor’s offices but that gives us a flexibility and an ability to get to hard-to-reach places that we just don’t have today with both limited supplies and two-shot cold chain storage vaccines,” stated Murphy at a press briefing Feb. 24. “You’ve got homebound people that right now are on the outside looking in. That’s a great place where you could envision the J&J vaccine making a difference.”
New Jersey Department of Health’s Dr. Eddy Bresnitz believes the vaccine will be being approved by early next week, possible as early as March 1.
Approval by Monday
“I can’t imagine that the FDA won’t issue an (Emergency Use Authorization) by Friday and then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices…has an emergency meeting on Sunday and Monday,” said Bresnitz. “So expect to see their recommendations on the same dataset by the end of Monday and then the CDC will issue its guidance.”
Murphy believed the state would receive shipments the second week of March as Johnson & Johnson has indicated “they’ve got some amount of supply ready to go.”
J&J has pledged to deliver about 20 million doses for U.S. use by the end of March, which may be enough to boost the countrywide capacity for completed vaccinations by about 20%, and expects to ship 100 million doses throughout the U.S. by late June.
As of Feb. 25, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 692,931 with 3,079 total new PCR cases reported over the two day. There were 800 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 86,032. The total number of individual cases for the state is 778,963. Gov. Murphy previously noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 70 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,816. The state listed probable deaths at 2,331, bringing the overall total to 23,147. State officials noted 26 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 25, Bergen had a total of 399 new confirmed cases and 106 probable cases, Essex 307 new cases and 49 probable cases, Hudson 329 new cases and 43 probable cases, Morris 147 new cases and and 48 probable cases, Passaic 172 new cases and 50 probable cases, Sussex 28 new cases and 18 probable cases, and Warren 44 cases and three probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 53 cases of the B117 UK coronavirus variant in 12 counties in New Jersey, including eight in Essex County, four in Morris County, three in Hudson, and two each in Passaic and Warren counties.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,400, followed by Bergen at 2,330, Hudson with 1,813, Passaic at 1,507, Morris at 892, Sussex at 209 and Warren County at 197.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 24, Bergen has 281, Essex has 269, Morris has 227, Hudson has 180, Passaic has 173, Sussex has 64 and Warren has 19.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.88 from 0.87 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 20, was 10.7%; by region, the rate was 11.2% in the North, 11.1% in the Central region and 8.7% in the South.
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 2,032 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 969 in the North, 612 in the Central and 451 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 438 are in intensive care units and 268 on ventilators. A total of 271 patients were discharged, while 262 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 67,891, followed by Middlesex at 66,885, Essex at 66,599, Hudson at 62,744, Passaic at 51,527, Ocean at 51,317, Monmouth at 50,799, Union at 48,424, Camden at 39,057, Morris at 31,610, Burlington at 30,584, Mercer at 25,844, Gloucester at 20,853, Atlantic at 19,486, Somerset at 18,410, Cumberland at 11,987, Sussex at 7,822, Warren at 6,223, Hunterdon at 6,201, Salem at 4,171, and Cape May at 3,656.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 8,448, followed by Union at 7,643, Ocean at 6,495, Essex at 6,141, Hudson at 5,579, Morris at 5,320, Monmouth at 5,226, Atlantic at 5,029, Middlesex at 4,927, Passaic at 4,717, Camden at 4,674, Burlington at 4,418, Somerset at 4,131, Cape May at 3,476, Gloucester at 3,075, Cumberland at 2,137, Mercer at 1,602, Sussex at 1,159, Warren at 711, Hunterdon at 619, and Salem 454.
Another 841 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 152 outbreaks involving 737 cases, with 10 new outbreaks accounting for 66 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 24.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 37 confirmed outbreaks with 155 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has four confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 341 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 12,949 of the cases, broken down between 6,404 residents and 6,545 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,260 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,212 residents and 20,948 staff, for a total of 53,160 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,901 on Feb. 25. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,817 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,821,510 as of Feb. 25. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,222,785 residents have received their first dose with 598,359 their second; 54% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 46% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 58% of those vaccinated are women and 42% men. As for ethnicity, 55% are White, 15% unknown, 14% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 41% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 24% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 206,560 doses, Essex 145,179 doses, Morris 135,144 doses, Passaic 81,693 doses, Hudson 83,314 doses, Sussex 27,613 doses, and Warren 16,611 doses.