Murphy feels J&J vaccine could help state ‘quickly ramp up’ distribution

The COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson could get emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration by the end of February. Gov. Phil Murphy said it can’t come soon enough.

“We need every tool in our toolkit,” he said. “Should the FDA grant Johnson & Johnson emergency use authorization … it could be a game changer in our ability to quickly ramp up our own vaccine distribution.”

The vaccine’s efficacy, at 72%, is not as high as the efficacy of vaccines by Pfizer or Moderna. Murphy, however, pointed out that it did show an 85% efficacy against severe illness.

Most of all, it is a single-shot vaccine and one that can be stored with normal refrigeration, as opposed to super cold storage. This ease of use — assuming the state gets the doses — potentially could help clear the bottleneck.

Murphy said he discussed the situation with Alex Gorsky, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, which is based in New Brunswick.

“I had a very good call with Johnson & Johnson,” he said. “They made a deliberate point of having 40% U.S. citizens, 40% South American and specifically Brazilian citizens, and 20% South African citizens (in their trial). They went into the teeth of this virus at its peak and into the teeth of the variants.”

Other notes from Friday’s COVID-19 briefing:

More on vaccines

As of Friday afternoon, 724,371 doses of the various COVID vaccines have been distributed throughout the state. Murphy said 113,275 vaccine doses have been administered throughout New Jersey’s 1,379 long-term care facilities.

“Both CVS and Walgreens will be scheduling multiple clinic dates at each facility to ensure that all eligible residents and staff are ultimately vaccinated,” Murphy said. “Each facility has a minimum requirement of three separate clinic days at each of the facilities. All the facilities enrolled in the program have had at least their first clinic scheduled, with CVS holding 901 of these and Walgreens holding 369.”

Health metrics

The state reported an additional 5,023 new COVID cases confirmed via PCR tests and 1,186 confirmed via antigen tests. That makes for a total of 615,202 positive cases and 72,067 positive cases, respectively.

Murphy said 363 COVID patients were discharged from hospitals Thursday, while 361 others were admitted. And an additional 83 deaths have been confirmed to be from COVID-related complications. In total since March, 19,254 New Jerseyans have lost their lives to COVID, with an additional 2,129 probable deaths.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 3,116 (2,884 confirmed, 232 awaiting confirmation);
  • In ICU: 548;
  • On ventilators: 378;
  • Rate of transmission: 91;
  • Positivity rate: 37% (from Jan. 25).

Unemployment update

Since Jan. 23, 16,618 initial claims have been made, bringing the cumulative total since March to 1.9 million initial claims. In that same time, New Jersey has given out $21.7 billion worth of funds to eligible claimants.

Murphy said the Department of Labor & Workforce Development oversaw the distribution for the third week of the federally provided $300 supplemental payment to nearly 600,000 workers.

Final word

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, on GameStop’s stock and recent market volatility:

“This GameStop phenomenon is crazy. I was reminded of an old adage — when people who normally don’t talk about the stock market start talking to you about it like they’d talk about the Giants game, it’s time to sell. When these things start dropping, it’s like trying to catch a knife when they go down. Good luck. It’s bloody. I will just say that markets are not perfect, for sure, but, at the end of the day, they settle in at a level of their natural resting place.”