N.J. expanding eligibility for vaccine. More importantly, N.J. is getting more doses

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that New Jersey will be greatly expanding the classification of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on March 15 and again on March 29 — with teachers and support staff, transportation staff, the homeless, restaurant workers, food processors and others joining the ranks.

Murphy reiterated that the approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine will help in the process, and said the state is getting more doses than originally announced. Murphy said pharmacies CVS and Rite Aid will be getting 22,500 doses of the J&J vaccine this week alone.

On a day when the state announced it had passed 2 million shots, Murphy was optimistic that number could grow quickly.

Murphy, who said the state was receiving approximately 70,000 doses of the J&J vaccine this week, suggested that number could grow in the weeks ahead, too, as manufacturing of the vaccine increases.

“We do not have any clarity of what the next couple of weeks may look like, as we know J&J is currently ramping up production,” he said. “We are being as conservative as possible and not calculating for anything else beyond this initial 70,000 dose haul until we are told otherwise.”

Murphy was more precise in the changes in eligibility.

On March 15, Murphy said the following groups will be added:

  • Pre-K-through-12 educators and support staff;
  • Child care workers in licensed and registered settings;
  • Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Transit and other transportation workers;
  • All public safety personnel who have not already been made eligible, such as probation officers and the child protective service workers of the Department of Children and Families;
  • Members of state’s tribal communities;
  • Persons experiencing homelessness, as well as those currently living in a homeless shelter or a domestic violence shelter;
  • Migrant farm workers.

Murphy said many people on those lists were previously eligible through other qualifications, but he said he expects the new eligibility to encompass “several hundred thousand workers and residents.”

On March 29, Murphy said these groups will be added:

  • Frontline essential workers in the restaurant, food processing and distribution industries — including grocery personnel and warehouse workers;
  • Remaining elder care workers;
  • Hospitality workers;
  • Elections workers;
  • Clergy, postal and other shipping workers;
  • Judicial system employees.

“Given the expectations of increased weekly shipments of vaccines as the month progresses, and especially as we head into April, we are confident in announcing this broadening of eligibilities now, so that those who fall into these categories can know when they can step up to the plate,” he said.

Murphy also said the state is actively conducting outreach over the phone and scheduling appointments for residents over 75 in an effort to ensure greater direct access. He said the state also is increasing allocations to megasites specifically for these seniors, among other actions.

Murphy said those with appointments to the state’s six megasites should go at their scheduled time — and that showing up early would not result in an earlier vaccination.

“We ask everyone to arrive 15 minutes prior to their appointed time,” he said. “The megasite you are scheduled at is not going to give out the dose earmarked for you before you arrive.

“Simply put — if you have an appointment, you have a vaccine.”