COVID-19 Vaccination Begins in Hospitals Across New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy witnessed history this week as frontline nurse Maritza Beniquez became the first person in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. | Photo from Gov. Murphy’s Office

‘A DAY  WORTH CELEBRATING’

GOV. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli marked the historic beginning of New Jersey’s vaccination effort on Tuesday morning, Dec. 15 at University Hospital in Newark, and witnessed the administration of the first COVID-19 vaccinations to the state’s frontline health care workers.

Maritza Beniquez, an emergency room nurse, became the first in the state to receive the vaccine. She said it was her birthday as the vaccination was administered.

“As a woman of color, I stand in solidarity with my community and know that we are three times more likely to suffer the catastrophic effects of this disease,” Beniquez said.

“Although I am living proof that PPE functions and has kept me safe while at work, I’m honored to be the first person in New Jersey to receive this vaccine, which will limit the possibility of me contracting this disease and unknowingly transmitting it to others.”

“This is a day that we have been waiting nearly a year for, and while we know this isn’t the end, we are witnessing, at the least, a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel,” said Murphy. “Without question, we are still in for several hard months and we are going to face stiff headwinds from this second wave, but now our heroic frontline health care workers can begin to take care of their fellow New Jerseyans with a higher degree of confidence in their own protection.”

“Availability of a COVID-19 vaccine within the same year as the epidemic began is a huge scientific achievement, which can help us contain this virus and save lives,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.  “We are thankful for our hospitals—who serve communities around the state—for volunteering to provide equitable and efficient access to vaccines to our valued healthcare workforce.”

Murphy called the development “the first drops in a really big bucket”, but also called it “a day worth celebrating.”

The federal government has allocated 76,050 first doses to New Jersey for the first tranche of the Pfizer-BioNTech (ultra-cold chain) vaccine, which began arriving at acute care hospitals Monday morning.

New Jersey will roll out COVID-19 vaccines step-by-step to serve all adults who live, work, or are being educated in the state. Phasing will ensure that limited vaccines are distributed in a fair and equitable manner.

Phase 1A of the plan, which captures approximately 650,000 people, includes healthcare workers who are paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Acute care hospital workers at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 will be the first to receive the vaccine.

Phase 1A will also include long-term care residents, who are adults who live in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently. Long-term care facilities will be served on-site through a pharmacy partnership supported by the CDC.

New Jersey is expected to get three shipments of the Pfizer vaccine including another 86,000 next week. The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and will be administered only at hospitals for now.

The total number of deaths in New Jersey has breached 16,000 and the total number of cases state wide is 409,400, as of Tuesday, Dec. 15. The rate of transmission is currently at 1.1 and more than 4,000 cases recorded daily.

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