As the second wave of the novel coronavirus in New Jersey continues, state officials are ramping up plans to distribute multiple vaccines — perhaps as soon as next month.

The first priority for three vaccines that have seen major breakthrough announcements in recent weeks: the state's frontline healthcare workers.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has applied for an emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine after earlier reporting more than a 90% success rate for a two-shot regimen. Moderna is expected to follow suit, after reporting similar, positive findings for its own vaccine.

On Monday AstraZeneca, in partnership with the University of Oxford, reported its vaccine is also up to 90% effective.

During Monday’s coronavirus update in Trenton, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said reports of the effectiveness of these vaccines “means that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.”

She said the first shipment of vaccine to Jersey, about 130,000 Pfizer doses, is expected by the third week of December and it “will be reserved for paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct and indirect exposure to patients or infected materials.”

A second 130,000-vaccine shipment would arrive a week or two after that.

“It is vital that our healthcare personnel get vaccinated not only for their own protection but also to set an example for the rest of us," she said.

Persichilli said sometime in either late December or early January 100,000 doses of vaccine produced by Moderna are expected to arrive. That would be followed by a second, similar shipment a week or two later.

Persichilli said a professional and health equity advisory committee is developing distribution guidelines for which healthcare workers should receive the vaccine first, since there won’t be enough to go around right away. Then, if all goes according to plan “by the end of January we should get on a rolling schedule 1.1 million doses a month.”

“Eventually once the general public is vaccinated,” Persichilli said, we'll start to see some level of community immunity.

She and Gov. Phil Murphy have both said the state's plan would also focus on equity and need — mindful poor communities with less access to routine healthcare, and more people working jobs that can't be done remotely, have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

But there are potential bumps in the road ahead.

She pointed out a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll found 4 in 10 New Jerseyans say they won't get vaccinated, so “building public confidence in a safe and effective vaccine is essential to reaching our goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population in New Jersey within a six-month time frame.”

She said in order to reach this goal, “we have to have vaccination sites open six days a week and do about 67,000 vaccinations a day.”

The state is also preparing a public awareness campaign, hoping to convince more people that the vaccinations are safe and that the science behind them is sound.

Persichilli stressed until a significant portion of the Garden State population is vaccinated “we must adhere to the proven public health practices to slow the spread of this virus. We need residents to be vigilant with the alarming surges in the cases we are experiencing.”

She urged residents to be "vigilant during this upcoming holiday."

"We cannot let our guard down," Persichilli said. "We must adhere to those public health measures. They are the only tools we have in our toolkit.”

Gov. Phil Murphy again called on the Trump administration to work with President-elect Joe Biden’s team on a smooth transition of power, to ensure vaccination distribution goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Later Monday, the federal General Services Administration determined Biden is the “apparent winner” of the election, allowing formal transition activities to start.

Until then, the Trump administration had refused to participate in any such transition — despite growing calls from legislators of both major parties — citing the president's insistence Biden won through fraudulent votes and ongoing court challenges.

"This will be an enormous logistical undertaking and any break or disruption in the supply chain will be paid for in lives," Murphy said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

LOOK: See what Christmas was like the year you were born


More From New Jersey 101.5 FM