EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Only about a quarter of New Jersey’s 400,000 doses of COVID vaccine have been distributed, but there are signs they’ll move much faster in a matter of days.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday his goal is to start vaccinating the general public by Memorial Day, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
By noon, Alex McLachlan, who works inside surgery rooms, was the 45th person to get the Moderna vaccine from a Riverside Medical Group staffer in Hoboken.
“Called this morning and got it today,” McLachlan said.
But online, the state’s website, which just launched to pre-register all residents, crashed due to high volume. The Department of Health is asking that only health care workers use the portal for now.
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Rozner asked Gov. Murphy if it’s realistic for those ages 18 to 55 with no underlying conditions to get the vaccine by summer.
“I hope and I believe the answer is yes, that we’ll be able to,” Murphy said. “I can’t hang my hat on Memorial Day, but I’m pointing to that as hard as I can.”
Several mega vaccination sites will be set up by mid-January, including at the old Meadowlands Race Track in Bergen County.
“I think as the year moves on and as we get to the general population you’ll be able to go to your local pharmacy,” said Dr. Perry Halkitis, director of the Rutgers School of Public Health.
So far, 5% of the state’s doses have gone to Riverside Medical Group vaccination sites stationed statewide. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gaurang Brahmbhatt expects all 20,000 doses will be used by next week.
“Lots of volume, lots of calls coming in,” Brahmbhatt said.
Kita Hasani works long hours seeing patients at the urgent care center. She said she hopes the dose she got Tuesday means she’ll protect patients and will allow her to soon hug her dad, a kidney cancer survivor.
“He actually just texted me earlier, ‘Make sure you get it today, please.’ So, he’s like, you know, very nervous and very happy,” Hasani said.
Watch Lisa Rozner’s report —
Along with front line health care heroes and seniors in long-term care facilities, the first batch of the coveted COVID-19 vaccine is also going to prison inmates.
Murphy’s office said a limited number of doses started being given to inmates and staff at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton last week, citing a large population of inmates with underlying conditions living in a high-risk, congregate setting.
Republican New Jersey Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi says inmates should get the vaccine at some point but not before other high-risk groups.
“My office continues to get phone calls from long-term care facility operators, first responders, EMTs, volunteer fire departments, people who are at exceptional high risk who can’t get vaccinated,” Schepisi told CBS2’s Nick Caloway.
Caloway asked, but the governor’s office was unable to say exactly how many doses have been given to inmates so far.
A staffer said, “The department is still in the process of aggregating this data.”
As for who’s next, members of the state health department met Tuesday to finalize who will be included in the 1B group. It’s possible it will include police and grocery workers.
The health department is also looking for retired health care workers to staff mega vaccination sites.
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner and Nick Caloway contributed to this report
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