Despite population jump, Murphy not raising NJ vaccine goal
TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s not going to raise the state’s goal of getting 4.7 million adults vaccinated by the end of June, despite 2020 Census results showing New Jersey has nearly a half-million more residents than a decade ago and over 400,000 more than had been estimated.
“Thought about it. We’re going to stick with our initial objective, which is to get to 4.7,” Murphy said.
“Let’s get there and then we’ll reassess where we go from there,” he said.
If 4.7 million out of 9,288,994 residents were to be vaccinated, that would amount to 50.6% of the population – far short of the moving target of 70% to 85% that has been suggested as a level offering ‘herd immunity’ protection.
Some unvaccinated people have antibody protections from having had COVID, and Murphy said those people have to be added to that. But it’s an unknowable number: Around 11% have tested positive for COVID-19, and many more had it but never got tested, but some of those overlap with those who’ve been vaccinated.
“It’s not just our hope, it’s our expectation that we will get to that 70% of adults getting fully vaccinated by the end of June of our own free will,” Murphy said.
The goal of 4.7 million adults is roughly equal to 70% of the adult population measured in the 2010 census. The Census Bureau issues annual estimates of state populations, including the adult population, but the state has been using the decade-old data rather than 2019 or 2020 estimates in its COVID formulas.
Seventy percent of the state’s estimated 2020 adult population would be 4.86 million.
Those estimates turned out to be significantly off the mark. The state’s 2020 population was 5.7% larger than the 2010 count. Estimates had pegged the growth rate at around 1%.
Details such as the number of adults in the state won’t be available until mid-August. But for the sake of comparison, if adults made up the same share of the state population in 2020 as in 2010, 70% of their total would be nearly 4,975,000 – which is 275,000 more than the state’s current vaccination goal.
The state is also counting nearly 99,000 out-of-state residents who have gotten first vaccines in New Jersey and 70,000 who are fully vaccinated toward the state’s progress, as well as 41,100 shots given to 16- and 17-year-olds, although neither group is part of the formula that yielded the 4.7 million target.
Murphy emphasized Wednesday that 4.7 million full vaccinations is an initial goal, raising the prospect that once the state gets there, a new goal will be set.
“We’ve said the word initial almost every time out, and I don’t want to lose that word today because obviously our hope is we could do even better,” Murphy said.
With Wednesday’s vaccination data update, Morris County became the first in New Jersey where the number of adults getting first shots exceeds 70% of the estimated 2019 population. Five other counties are over 60%: Somerset, Cape May, Bergen, Hunterdon and Monmouth.
The statewide level is 60%, though Murphy – using 2010 population totals – describes it as 62%.
More than half of adults are fully vaccinated in Morris County, 52.4%, and Cape May County, 50.4%. Statewide, 42% of adults are fully vaccinated.
At the other end of the list, Hudson County is no longer the county farthest from the vaccination goals. Warren County lags the most, with 47.4% getting at least one shot and 33.5% fully vaccinated. Cumberland County – at 49.4% and 34.5% – is also behind Hudson.
Murphy said “a sort of suite of proactive steps that we will take” regarding vaccinations will be announced Monday.
“We’re at the place we knew we’d always get to,” Murphy said. “We knew just as (Health Commissioner) Judy (Persichilli) had done sort of a SWAT team approach to 75 and up and then 65 and up, there are variations of that that we’re going to have to do to different communities in the state.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses the 2019 population estimates to calculate rates, shows the state has made more progress than the state’s dashboard.
In part that is the case because it shows 299,000 more doses have been administered in the state than the state’s tally. In addition to that, the CDC also provides a count that includes New Jerseyans who have gotten vaccinated in other states.
All told, the CDC shows that 4.5 million New Jersey residents have gotten first shots, or 64% of the estimated adult population. About 3.1 million are fully vaccinated, or 44.4%.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.