New Jersey health officials set stage for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Garden State is expecting to receive around 76,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine once it is approved.

But it's not yet known how those doses will be divided between health care workers and nursing homes.

Following the expected emergency use authorization, the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive in New Jersey as soon as 24 hours later, although that timeline could change.

"We are hopefully expecting, if everything goes as anticipated, to receive our first shipment of vaccine next week," said Virtua Health Sr. VP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Khelil.

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The health system is one of the six in the state to get the vaccine and is expecting to receive anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 doses.

"We're looking at who within that group are really at the highest risk, so, if you think about that we're talking about our emergency department, our paramedics, our first responders," Khelil said.

Virtua Health says at this time, it is not making the vaccine mandatory for employees.

The health system will also be working in collaboration with companies like CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term nursing home residents.

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In a statement to Action News, a CVS spokesperson said their plan is to inoculate 100,000 residents and staff at 1,100 term care facilities and assisted living facilities in the state.

"By immunizing the people in nursing homes, both the residents and that staff, you're going to stop a potential tragedy or at least slow it down," said the interim C.E.O. of New Jersey Health Care Association, Dr. Stuart Shapiro.

Shapiro applauded Governor Phil Murphy's decision to follow CDC recommendation for vaccine rollout and urges other state leaders to do the same.

"Anybody who is not prioritizing residents and staff at long-term care facilities is making a mistake," Shapiro added.

As far as public skepticism goes, health officials are hopeful as the first doses are administered, so will interest in receiving it.

In Camden County, health officials said 59 percent of residents surveyed here say they will get the vaccine.

"This is an effective vaccine and also a safe vaccine," said Camden County Health Officer Dr. Paschal Nwako.

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