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How will New Jersey distribute a COVID-19 vaccine? Is there a plan?
New Jersey submitted its draft COVID-19 vaccination plan to the CDC on October 16th.
The plan calls for an all-of-government approach to a wide-scale vaccination program, and aims to:
- Provide equitable access to a vaccine
- Achieve maximum community protection
- Build public trust
When these aims are met, the State will meet its initial goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the New Jersey's eligible adult population.
According to New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, to date there is no globally approved COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is an expectation that a vaccine will become available either by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) pre-approval.
An EUA allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to facilitate the availability of unapproved medical product to be used to prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. The FDA may issue an emergency use authorization for one or more COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year.
As of late October, several vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials. Some of the vaccines will require a two-dose regimen, 21-28 days apart.
The initial allotment of vaccine to states is expected to be limited. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the CDC has drafted recommendations for the first phase of the vaccination effort, prioritizing health care workers who have the potential for direct exposure and essential workers and individuals at risk, including those 65 and older. It will be up to states to determine the final allocation.
The Department of Health anticipates that, following initial rounds of distribution, there will be enough supply to meet demand during Phase II. Phase III will allow open access to the vaccine.
How much vaccine New Jersey will receive will depend on several factors including the population of essential and healthcare workers, current spread or prevalence of the disease, and vaccine(s) availability.
An Equitable Wide-Scale Vaccination Program
The Department of Health has been working to ensure an equitable wide-scale vaccination program since July and established the New Jersey Department of Heath COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force with nine teams.
In addition, a Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) meets weekly to monitor the progress of vaccine development and ensure that all discussions are made through the lens of equity.
Commissioner Persichilli convened the PAC in March to provide guidance to the Department to ensure that its COVID-19 response is based on the latest scientific, medical, ethical, and public health evidence. The 28 public members and its subcommittees include healthcare leaders, academics, infectious and chronic disease healthcare practitioners, former commissioners, epidemiologists, quality experts, local health and equity leaders and ethicists representing geographic, demographic, and professional diversity.
The Department of Health reminds the public that information about COVID-19 and the vaccines currently in development is still evolving and that the Department will continue to release information as it becomes available. The Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccination plan has been partly informed by the state's experience with pandemic influenza vaccination during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.