NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey is ramping up efforts to give more residents the coronavirus vaccine.

Two of the state’s six vaccination mega sites opened Friday, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported. They’re located in Rockaway Town Square in Rockaway and Rowan College of South Jersey in Sewell.

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First responders like firefighter and EMT Jay Alderton are now eligible to be vaccinated. Alderton and law enforcement officers were the first to get their shots Friday at the old Sears at the Rockaway Town Square Mall, which was repurposed as a mega vaccination site.

“It’s an honor to be able to get it,” Alderton said.

Alderton said he stepped up to the plate because COVID has added a new layer of uncertainty to his already dangerous job.

COVID In New Jersey: Police, Firefighters Now Eligible To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

“Even with all the precautions we are taking during our daily exposures… There is still no guarantee that not only could we contract the virus, but the scarier reality is that we can possibly bring it home to our loved ones,” Alderton said.

The facility at the mall will eventually have the capacity to vaccinate more than 2,000 people a day.

WATCH: Gov. Murphy Tours COVID Vaccine Mega Site

New Jersey’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of the population by May. That’s more than 4.7 million people. So far, only about 140,000 doses of the 570,000 received have been administered.

So, what’s the delay? Other countries, such as Israel, say they will have all residents fully vaccinated by March.

“Geographically, we compare to Israel. Why are they able to vaccinate a million people and we’re just over 100,000?” Baker asked Gov. Phil Murphy.

“We are relying on the federal government for our supplies. So it’s an apples to oranges comparison,” said Murphy. “I believe in the fullness of time, once we get the supply chain from Washington, into a better place… There’s data reporting lags… All states are going through that. We’re no exception. That will get better over time.”


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“Secondly, we’ve got resources that are, for instance CVS and Walgreens, dealing with long-term care. They have supplies in their possession. They’ve got a list of long-term care facilities that they’re going to be going through in the month of January and February. So, that looks like they’re not being used. But there’s a plan explicitly for them to get that out. So there’s a number of reasons why,” Murphy added.

As the state slowly vaccinates those in the 1A group of health care workers and first responders, the state health department has yet to announce when the second group, 1B, will become eligible.

Residents can sign up on New Jersey’s COVID vaccination registration portal to be alerted when they are eligible for the vaccine and to find out where to go.

Watch Meg Baker’s report

State health commissioner Judy Persichilli admits there’s a long way to go.

“We’re just about at 36% of the available doses being actually administered into the arm,” she told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

Part of the problem, she says, is the number of doses coming from the federal government hasn’t been consistent.

“So once we get more predictability on the doses, we’ll be able then to give to our over 200 sites,” she said.

Since the registration portal opened, 650,000 people have signed up, even though many aren’t eligible to get it yet.

Still, the state doesn’t want to waste a single dose.

“If someone comes in and they’re not in phase 1A or the first segment of 1B … they’re to be put on a waiting list and at the end of the day, call them up bring them back vaccinate them,” Persichilli said.


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CBS2’s Meg Baker and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team