Can New Jersey reach it's vaccination goal for a normal summer?

About 168,000 New Jersey adults per week would need to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in order to reach the goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by Memorial Day. That's an average of 25,000 per day.

While that sounds like a big number, it's actually is doable. The issue is not the capacity at vaccination sites around, it's the shortage of vaccine that is putting us behind.

Gov. Phil Murphy has called the arrival of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine a "game changer," but the next shipment of the J&J vaccine is not expected for another three weeks. As of today, New Jersey is only at about 18% of the goal of vaccinating 4.7 million residents.

New Jersey has put 2,558,570 shots in arms. All but a few thousands of those doses have been from Moderna or Pfizer. They require two-doses about a month apart for full immunity. Only 869,104 people have gotten that second shot while 1,688,812 are waiting for the second dose. The advantage of the J&J vaccine is that it requires only one dose to guard against moderate to serious illness from a COVID infection.

Even before approval of the J&J vaccine, the New Brunswick-based company was warning about production problems. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added to the worries on Tuesday, saying he has had "many conversations" with the pharma giant about production problems delaying the number of doses promised. J&J announced last week they would partner with rival Merck, also based in New Jersey, to help speed production.

The Biden administration announced they would make another 900 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine available to states this week.  However, it is not known how much is allocated to New Jersey, and when it will make it to state vaccination centers.

Whether New Jersey will reach the goal in time for a return to normal this summer remains a big question mark with many variables. Vaccine production is one, but the rise of multiple COVID-19 variants. State health officials confirm 163 cases of mutations first identified in the UK, Brazil and in New York City. The actual number of infections is many times higher, but testing for these variants is expensive and time consuming. A team at Rutgers has developed a new test that could make it easier to identify mutations. These versions of the virus can be spread more easily, and might be resistant to the current vaccines. Governor Murphy has started citing the increase in variant infections as a reason he will not further relax restrictions that have been in place now for a year.

Further complicating efforts to reach that 70% vaccination goal is a growing number of New Jersey residents "vaccine shopping." State health officials said this week they are seeing people cancel appointments for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, electing to wait for the single-dose J&J vaccine. All three approved vaccine are 100% effective in preventing death from COVID and have about the same efficacy with regard to preventing moderate to serious illness.

However, with the next batch of J&J vaccine not expected until the end of the month, any delay in vaccinations further puts in doubt a reopening of the state this summer.

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