Gov. Phil Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli are anticipating a decision this week by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), that would grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15.
At today’s COVID-19 briefing in Trenton, the governor said that the pending recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on the use of the vaccine and the FDA’s approval would be a “big step” for schools and communities throughout the state. The CDC’s recommendations are expected as soon as this Wednesday.
Now that approval is imminent, Murphy said that the goal of the Department of Health is to give eligible adolescents the two Pfizer doses in an environment that is “comforting and accessible, whether it be through partnerships with their schools, pediatricians, local pharmacies, or one of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mega-sites.”
The governor anticipates using the mega-sites in a hub and spoke model where they will supply vaccine doses directly to the communities where adolescents and their families reside.
Additionally, formal plans to guide parents and guardians as well as medical practitioners regarding the vaccine for adolescents are now being finalized by the state Department of Health.
“Our partners at Walgreens, who have been working with multiple school districts across the state to vaccinate students ages 16 and over, also will be ready to transition to vaccinate the younger cohort once the approval comes forward,” Murphy said. “We know it is a matter of time until this [approval is granted], and we have spent our time preparing [for it] so that we can get this latest expansion underway with minimal lead time.”
The governor also announced the creation of a new dashboard on the state’s covid19.nj.gov information hub where viewers can see, by municipality, the percentage of adults who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine.
“This mapping tool is not to create competition among communities, nor is it meant to shame any community,” Murphy said. “However, through this data, we hope [the public] could see why we will be deploying resources to certain communities as opposed to others. Reaching our 70% goal by June 30 is a key benchmark for us and we know there will be key neighborhoods where we will have to push a little or lot more to bring the resources in.”
To reach the 70% goal, Persichilli said that 280,000 first doses must be administered weekly this month throughout the state, and 220,000 second doses each week through June. “Our counties will have to administer, depending on where they are, between 3,000 and 35,000 first doses weekly in May, and between 3,000 and 23,000 second doses through June depending on how successful they have been to date. … We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she said.
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