New Jersey officials say they are pleased with how the state’s coronavirus vaccine program has launched at hospitals, and health care and labor leaders reported few significant glitches with the process to date.
But questions remain about the pace of immunizations at the hospital-based vaccine clinics, which began administering the vaccines to at-risk health care workers early last week, and state officials declined Tuesday to provide updated data on how many sites are now operating and how many people have been immunized thus far.
In addition, efforts to track the vaccine rollout nationwide suggest some states have been better able to capitalize on federal shipments from Pfizer and Moderna, the two pharmaceutical companies whose vaccines are now approved for emergency use in the U.S.
New Jersey’s Department of Health said Tuesday it expects to receive 154,500 doses from Moderna this week — 7,200 of which have already arrived — and nearly 54,000 Pfizer vaccine doses, some of which will go to staff and residents at nursing homes and other long-term care centers.
“I believe that it is purely in our case a slight lag in hospitals reporting into the system,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday when asked about the pace of vaccinations. “I’m not aware of any logistical issues other than the readjustment of the numbers that we’ve already mentioned on the (federal) side, and we had a little bit of a delay because of the storm last week. But I think we like what we see.”
Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli have pushed federal officials for clarification on the amount of vaccines headed to New Jersey after they learned the state would receive at least 100,000 fewer doses than first expected during December.
“We’re going to use every single one of these” doses, Murphy said Monday morning on CBS This Morning.
Tracking sites report lags in NJ
A New York Times analysis of the first week of vaccine shipments reported that New York state administered 19,000 doses of the Pfizer product, or 22% of the 87,750 doses it received. West Virginia used nearly 2,800 doses, or 17% of its initial shipment; Rhode Island administered more than 1,200 doses, or 12% of its early allotment; and Massachusetts dispensed 6,200 doses, some 10% of what it got from federal officials.
New Jersey initially received 76,000 vaccines and had administered less than 2,200 by Friday, or under 3% of the total received, according to the Times. By Sunday afternoon, state officials said, some 8,700 people had been immunized at 26 hospital-based clinics, but they declined to provide updated figures Tuesday.
Data reported by the Washington Post on Monday — which included new shipments and inoculations provided over the weekend — indicated the pace of immunizations was accelerating in some states. By then, New York state had administered 38,000 doses (17% of total deliveries), Florida had immunized 43,700 people (using 14% of its supply), and Pennsylvania had inoculated 17,700 individuals (10% of its shipments), despite a slow start the first week. (The Post still listed New Jersey as administering less than 2,200 doses.)
Murphy’s office declined Tuesday to respond to questions about the rollout or provide updated figures on New Jersey’s progress. The DOH also declined to share new vaccination totals, suggesting updates would be made available at the governor’s regularly scheduled briefing Wednesday.
The pace of vaccinations, or clinic “throughput,” is one of many factors New Jersey has pledged to track and report in the revised COVID-19 vaccine plan it submitted to federal regulators earlier this month. State officials also planned to hold weekly meetings with all vaccine administration sites to ensure they have the proper staff, supplies and other resources to meet certain capacity goals.
The Murphy administration has set a goal of vaccinating 70% of the state’s eligible population — about 4.7 million people — within six months of vaccines becoming widely available. To reach that level, the plan calls for a growing number of vaccination sites, some of which will need to operate long hours six days a week, for up to six months, with the capacity to vaccinate at least 12 people per hour.
Last week Murphy announced plans to create six drive-through vaccine sites that would open in early January, similar to the large-scale testing programs put in place in the spring. According to the vaccine plan, these need to administer up to 2,400 doses a day for the state to reach its larger goal.
After the first week of immunizations, two of the state’s largest hospital systems said they had yet to experience any challenges.
“Our vaccine clinics are running smoothly,” said RWJBarnabas Health’s Carrie Cristello. The system is immunizing people at its 11 hospitals and hopes to immunize 70% of its staff eventually, she said.
Hackensack Meridian Health, the state’s other massive hospital system, is vaccinating staff at 10 hospitals and had immunized more than 4,400 workers by Monday — a significant portion of the total inoculated statewide, according to spokesman Ben Goldstein.
“We are confident that we will meet our objective to vaccinate all HMH team members and physicians by the end of January,” he said.
A spokesperson for HPAE, a labor union that represents thousands of nurses, said it has also not heard concerns about the rollout.