TRENTON — State officials anticipate receiving the first shipments of a vaccine for COVID-19 by late December, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.
Judith Persichilli, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, said her department is already working on a distribution plan. The goal, she said, is to vaccinate 70 percent of the state’s adult population — more than 4.7 million people — in a six-month timeframe.
Partly as a result of progress on vaccine development and testing, “we are in a far, far different place than we were at the beginning of the pandemic,” Gov. Murphy said in the Friday pandemic briefing. He also cited New Jersey’s increased testing capacity and contact tracing as a positive factor. More sobering was the announcement of nearly 3,500 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to nearly 300,000. New Jersey deaths from the virus were reported to have reached 14,900.
The state’s forecast of a year-end vaccine shipment came as biomedical technology company Pfizer Inc. announced that it would be submitting a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization for their vaccine candidate, which they say has an efficacy rate of 95 percent.
In a press release, the company, which partnered with the German firm BioNTech SE on the vaccine candidate, cited projections that up to 50 million doses can be produced in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses can be made by the end of 2021.
The Pfizer vaccine would be administered in two doses taken 21 days apart and needs to be kept in cold chain storage, at a temperature of about -70 degrees centigrade. With FDA approval, New Jersey could receive 130,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the third week of December and another 130,000 by the end of December, Gov. Murphy said.
Commissioner Persichilli said vaccination priority will be given to paid and unpaid persons serving in the New Jersey medical industry who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19. Those 650,000 individuals — doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other hospital staff and home health care workers — will be among the first individuals to get the vaccine.
Phase “1B” would make vaccinations available to other essential workers and those who have a higher risk of infection, as well as those who live in group settings.
By April or May, she said, there should be enough vaccines to treat the general population.
Another biotechnology company, Moderna, announced on Nov. 16 their own vaccine candidate has an efficacy rate of 94.5 percent. A data safety monitoring board appointed by the National Institute of Health will conduct a phase 3 study of Moderna vaccine, which would require two doses taken 28 days apart.
Should Moderna receive federal approval, New Jersey could expect two shipments of 100,000 doses each within roughly the same timeframe as projected for the Pfizer shipments, Ms. Persichilli said.
Under that scenario, “We could have between 400,000 to 450,000 vaccines in the state by early January,” she said.
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