70% … 80% … 85%? What is vaccination rate goal, now?

At the beginning of the vaccination period, Gov. Phil Murphy and the administration said the goal was to get 70% of eligible adults vaccinated.

It’s a goal the state may or may not have met — it needed to add in the vaccinations of all eligible people without changing the total to reach that percentage mark.

But that only begged the questions: Did it matter how the number was counted — and what should the goal be now?

Murphy, speaking at his COVID-19 briefing Monday, said the state would like to get to 80%-85%.

“That’s really where we want to end up,” he said.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the communicable disease service medical director for the Department of Health, answered the question a different way.

“The goals haven’t changed, the virus changed,” he said. “The goal has always been to get to enough people immune where the virus can’t easily spread from person to person and propagate itself over time — what people sometimes call herd immunity. There is no single exact number that you can say: 72% is better than 70%, (but) there’s no single exact number that you can put at it.”

Then he gave his best answer:

“The more infectious of a virus, the more people need to be immune to keep it from spreading around,” he said. “So, as the Delta virus becomes more infectious, you need to have a higher percentage of people who are immune to keep it from spreading from person to person.”

Murphy — who has taken to calling COVID the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” in recent weeks — said the only way to battle a “very transmittable, more lethal variant” is to get vaccinated.

Something the state continues to chip away at, he said.

“The pool of the most vulnerable and exposed shrinks every day,” he said. “When we put up (8,000 to 12,000) new first-dose people, that continues to shrink, which is a great thing.”

The bad thing: The variant currently is growing more than the pool is shrinking, he said.