Gov. Phil Murphy says the waiting times to get a coronavirus vaccine are a result of one thing: lack of enough vaccines.

“We know that there is pent-up demand and that getting an appointment may be proving challenging,” Murphy said Tuesday. “All that we are currently missing are the doses of vaccines necessary for us to put this machinery into high gear.

Murphy said he does not regret opening up vaccines to more than 4 million additional residents after initially making them available to frontline healthcare workers and nursing homes but he said that the "expectations explicitly were for significantly more doses of vaccine to come to New Jersey."

According to state officials, New Jersey received 18% fewer vaccines than had initially been promised during the month of December. But the governor said with the incoming Biden administration “and a new federal focus on pushing vaccines out at a greater pace, we are hopeful that we will be able to start ramping up our in-state capabilities to meet what we know is a tremendous demand.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli admitted the current situation is frustrating.

“There are now many more people who are eligible to get vaccinated but our vaccine supply is still very limited,” she said. “We are asking the public to be patient because supply is limited and it may be some time before you receive an invitation to make an appointment even if you are currently eligible.”

At the same time state, officials are voicing confidence about receiving enough vaccine to ensure everyone who receives their first shot will be able to get their second so-called “booster shot” in a timely manner.

“We do believe that all second doses have been set aside at the federal government, and will be sent on a regular cadence to the points of dispensing based on the number of first doses," Persichilli said.

She noted the state is working with groups and sites administering the vaccinations to make sure they receive the allocations they need to keep on schedule.

Persichilli said that over the past two weeks, the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was being given to those who received the first dose tree weeks earlier. This week, vaccinators will begin receiving the Moderna booster second doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine four weeks ago.

She said for each of the past two weeks, the federal government sent 53,000 Pfizer doses and 53,000 Moderna doses to New Jersey, but for the next few weeks we will receive 55,575 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 56,100 doses of Moderna.

Persichilli stressed individuals should return to the location where they received their first vaccine for the second shot because that’s where it will be sent.

Murphy noted there are currently 130 county-run and community COVID vaccination sites plus four vaccine mega-sites operating in Burlington, Gloucester, Middlesex and Morris counties, with 100 additional community sites and two more mega-sites opening soon at the Meadowlands Convention Center and in Atlantic City

He said there are no plans to get vaccine shipments directly from Pfizer and Moderna, instead of going through the federal government.

He added that if the Johnson &Johnson COVID vaccine gets emergency approval in the coming weeks it would be a “game changer” and more many more state residents could get vaccinated sooner.

Murphy also said he still believes we will be in “a significantly better place” by Memorial Day, although we may not reach the 70% herd immunity vaccination threshold he has mentioned in the past.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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