NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of health care workers in New Jersey started to get their second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

But across the Hudson River, many are frustrated by the slow rollout in New York City, CBS2’s John Dias reported.

It was the best kind of deja vu nurse Maritza Beniquez could experience — cameras were in her face as she received a COVID-19 shot.

“I now have body armor,” said Beniquez, who last month was the first person in New Jersey to get the initial dose of the vaccine.

“It is a game changer and it’s our body armor. You wouldn’t send a police officer into the field without a vest and so, this is now my body armor and I’m proud and happy to have taken it,” Beniquez said.

Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials were at Newark’s University Hospital when staff started administering the follow-up shots at around 9 a.m.

Maritza Beniquez becomes the first person in New Jersey to be vaccinated for COVID-19 on Dec. 15, 2020. (credit: CBS2)

Doctors said Beniquez and hundreds of her colleagues who were also getting the second shot will be immune to COVID-19 in a few weeks.

“At least three weeks after the second dose before you consider yourself to be at that 95% effectiveness,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark.

The bulk of New Jersey’s residents won’t be getting the vaccine until late in the spring.

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Murphy said he wants to vaccinate 70% of the population in the next six months. Mega vaccination sites will start to open in the Garden State starting at the end of the week, one in Morris County and one in Edison will be among the next, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.

The sites sites will remain focused on health care workers in the 1A category.

“Each of those sites will have 1,000 doses a week for 1A population,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli said.


The governor announced more than 100,000 health care workers have been vaccinated so far. The priority remains frontline workers so that the state’s hospital systems do not get overrun.

The state is still determining who will be included in the 1B group up next, such as police officers or grocery workers.

“We’ll open up 1B probably by segments and start moving in the most essential workers, with, again, health and safety being at the front the list,” Persichilli said.

New Jersey will launch a statewide online vaccine scheduling system to help consumers plan vaccination appointments nearby.

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Dr. Perry Halkitis, director of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said the state needs to do more to get the word out about the rollout, including radio and advertising.

“You have to repeat things many, many, many times for people to remember them and to understand them,” Halkitis said.

In our area, the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, the Rockaway Town Square Mall in Morris County, and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center will serve as mega vaccination sites.

In addition, the state is setting up 200 satellite vaccination sites, including hospitals, health and urgent care centers, chain pharmacies, and more.

“You’ll be able to go to your local pharmacy, you’ll be able to get your dose, and for the general public, you will work much more effectively, but right now the focus is on getting the most vulnerable vaccinated,” Halkitis said.

The health department is calling on retired health care workers — nurses, paramedics, anyone certified to inoculate — to sign up with their county medical reserve corps, because there is a great need to staff the mega vaccination sites.

CBS2’s John Dias and Meg Baker contributed to this report


John Dias