New Jersey to begin vaccinating adults over 65, people with chronic illnesses

TRENTON (WCBS 880) — Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced that New Jersey will begin to vaccinate residents over the age of 65 and those with chronic medical conditions starting Thursday.

The governor said that in addition to those older than 65, residents “between the ages of 16 and 64 with medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus” will also be eligible for the vaccine.

“I want to be careful not to use the word comorbidities, that's not what this is,” the governor said at his daily press briefing. “This is folks with chronic, real-time health challenges.”

The vaccine is available to eligible people who live, work or study in New Jersey, Murphy has said.

There are an estimated 4.47 million people who will meet the vaccine eligibility on Thursday as data shows there are over 1.5 million people older than 65 in the state and possibly another million living with chronic illnesses.

The concern now is vaccine supply, Murphy said, noting that New Jersey is ready to do its part.

“We have set the infrastructure we need to do this job, and we are now ready to begin to ramp up our vaccination efforts exponentially,” Murphy said.

For those age 16-64, chronic illnesses include: cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Down syndrome, heart conditions, including example heart failure, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy, obesity, severe obesity, sickle cell disease and Type-2 diabetes.

"The largest group: smokers," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said of those eligible. There are an estimated 2 million smokers in the state.

Anyone who wants to receive a vaccine will need to register on the state's website, but all New Jersey officials are urging residents to be patient in waiting for their turn as the state is still experiencing a shortage in supply.

The news about expanded vaccine eligibility came as the state reported another 6,922 confirmed cases and another 95 fatalities, bringing the state’s death toll to 18,070. When counting the 2,091 probable COVID deaths, the death toll would be 20,161 New Jerseyans.

"All told, we have now crossed the threshold of 20,000 residents lost to COVID-19," Murphy said. "For New Jersey, it's almost unfathomable. This is more than 25 times the number of residents we lost on 9/11. And we still mourn their loss. We mourn the loss of every one of those lives, as well as this unfathomable number of folks who have been lost to COVID."

Hospitalizations also rose slightly to 3,726 on Wednesday, with 648 patients in intensive care and 452 on ventilators.

The state has distributed 264,681 vaccines so far, according to Gov. Murphy.

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