Though there is light at the end of the tunnel, New Jersey was and continues to be one of the states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, after ten long months of personal and commercial restrictions, we experienced our highest weekly case totals since the pandemic began, an auspicious start to the New Year.
The response, meanwhile, has been a mix of individual successes and continued delays. Morris County is showing what success looks like, thanks to the leadership of the Morris County Commissioners who, in partnership with Atlantic Health, quickly opened the Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall. This mega site – a bright, modern facility staffed by professionals – is a welcome, tangible sign of progress. And it opened just as many more people became eligible for the vaccine. Now, any New Jerseyan over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing medical conditions join healthcare workers, long term care facility staff and residents, and first responders on the list of those who can access the vaccine.
There are, however, still delays in obtaining enough vaccines to administer. While more than 4 million New Jerseyans are now eligible to receive the vaccine, they are competing for fewer than 200,000 available doses – a tremendous disparity that threatens new-found feelings of hope.
The solution over the next few weeks is better integration into the healthcare supply chain. This started last week with the availability of vaccines at CVS and Rite Aid pharmacies, but should expand to other New Jersey pharmacies and major healthcare distributors. I encourage our state officials to lean on this healthcare supply chain and existing infrastructure to get communities their needed vaccine doses. These healthcare experts have experience administering mass vaccinations and supporting our communities in times of need.
We need more shots directly in the arms of people across Morris County, New Jersey, and the country, and the healthcare supply chain can help us do that.