Up until now, the only New Jersey residents eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine were frontline healthcare workers, police, firefighters and residents and staff at long term care facilities.

But the the state this week is expanding eligibility to nearly 5 million more people, including people addicted to nicotine.

But on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that starting Thursday, everyone age 65 and older can make an appointment to get vaccinated.

Additionally, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said those between the ages of 16 and 64 can also get an appointment for a vaccine if they have a chronic health condition, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The largest group will be smokers — an estimated 2 million of them.

Persichilli pointed out that “smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from COVID-19."

She said those who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system are also eligible, but should follow CDC guidance and first discuss it with their doctor.

She said opening up the vaccine rollout in this fashion “will help to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.”’

The governor said New Jersey is "facing a huge supply demand imbalance, which in the immediate term will only grow — please have patience.”

The governor said there are currently 165 vaccine points of distribution in New Jersey and another 89 will soon be phased in as more vaccine doses arrive.

Those eligible to get vaccinated can register on the state's COVID website  (although registration is not required) to get a list of vaccine sites across the state.

Persichilli said this list includes contact information to schedule your appointment and the list will continue to be updated as more sites become available. Many locations do not have appointments available because demand is so great.

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

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