Vaccine is crucial to N.J.’s economic health

It is undeniable that the past year has been a challenging one for every New Jerseyan. The ravages of the pandemic have been felt everywhere and, no matter what metric you choose, our state has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of this insidious virus, the business community has been devastated.

But, as we continue into the new year, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a light we must all embrace if we hope to regain our footing and move past the hardship we’ve experienced over the past 12 months.

Tom Bracken. (File photo)

This week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state has surpassed 1 million vaccine doses, and our vaccination rate is climbing each day. This is fantastic news for all, and is enthusiastically welcomed by the New Jersey business community, because the key to our economic recovery is through vaccinations.

There simply is no bigger priority right now than getting vaccines into as many arms as possible, as quickly as we can. And, while 1 million doses is a good start, it is imperative that we all do our part to achieve the governor’s goal of 4.7 million doses administered by June.

We in the business community can play a crucial part in the vaccine rollout. It’s incumbent on us to use every avenue available to help secure more vaccine doses for New Jersey and ensure they reach as many arms as possible. That can mean contacting our federal legislators to urge them to work to secure more vaccines, as my organization has done, encouraging our employees to get vaccinated and using our networks to promote the benefits of widespread vaccinations within our communities.

Throughout the pandemic, one of the greatest obstacles to our economic health has been consumer confidence. We can debate the effects of business restrictions, but, as any owner of a service or retail business will tell you, customers must feel safe before they’re able overcome their lingering fear and head out to shop in a local retail store, eat in a restaurant or head out for a drink and a movie.

While personal protective equipment, sanitizing protocols, social distancing and other measures are useful and must continue, our full economic resurgence relies on rolling out the vaccine and eventually achieving herd immunity.

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center shows 60% of Americans now say they will “definitely or probably” get a vaccine for the coronavirus. This and other polling show that people are ready to move on from the fear, uncertainty and isolation of the past year. Now, it’s up to all of us to make it happen.

Gov. Murphy and his team have steered us through this pandemic and have built a strong vaccine distribution infrastructure. We need to capitalize on this infrastructure and get more vaccines to the public.

Make no mistake. The New Jersey business community has shown its resilience throughout the pandemic, finding new and innovative ways to survive and to be prepared for the pending recovery. What is abundantly clear, however, is that until many more New Jerseyans are vaccinated and we begin to approach herd immunity levels that offer widespread protection, New Jersey’s economic health will continue to suffer and our return to normalcy will be postponed.

Tom Bracken is the CEO and president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, based in Trenton.