NJ opens COVID vaccines to residents with asthma or overweight
COVID-19 vaccine eligibility has been opened to new groups of the population as of Monday.
More than 3 million total vaccine doses had been administered statewide, as of Monday, including a million second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna brands, which require two shots for a person to be fully inoculated.
Among those now on the list as being able to seek appointments are people with any 10 conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said might put individuals at increased risk for severe illness from the virus. Those include:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Public and local transportation workers, including bus, taxi, ride-share (Uber, Lyft) and airport employees, NJ Transit workers and Motor Vehicle Commission staff also now are eligible to receive vaccinations, as well as public safety workers other than law enforcement/fire professionals, including probation officers and fire safety inspectors.
Migrant farm workers, members of tribal communities and individuals who are homeless and those in shelters, including domestic violence shelters, round out the latest segment of expanded eligibility.
In two weeks, the following frontline workers are set to become eligible, as of March 29:
- Food production, agriculture, and food distribution
- Eldercare and support
- Warehousing and logistics
- Social services support staff
- Elections personnel
- Medical supply chain
- Postal and shipping services
- Judicial system
The state's vaccination call center has resumed scheduling appointments, according to state health commissioner Judith Persichilli at last week's state pandemic response briefing, who added that the hotline, 1-855-568-0545, is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
That's in addition to the online New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System, which prompts those who are eligible to search for a vaccine from among available slots.
Questions have been raised about just how many residents have become eligible based on the inclusion of being overweight as a high risk condition. The CDC has a BMI calculator online. Obesity already has been a qualifying condition for vaccines in-state since mid-January.
All American adults should be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1 at the latest, President Joe Biden said during his primetime speech on Thursday.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said repeatedly at state pandemic briefings over the past several weeks that he expects vaccine supply to hit "quantum" levels in April, based on what federal officials have outlined.
Murphy also has said that he expected demand would continue to outstrip supply for most of March, in particular as Johnson and Johnson has been stepping up its production of the Janssen brand vaccine, since being granted an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
For the week ending March 6, the COVID-19 Activity Level Index that tracks viral spread around the state showed three out of the six regions remained at high activity level, while the other half were at the moderate level, according to state data online.