New Jersey begins rolling out coronavirus vaccines to residents and staff at long-term care facilities Dec. 28, and will be including other highly vulnerable populations living in congregate settings — such as people with disabilities in group homes — shortly afterward.

The initial plan had been to have Walgreens and CVS begin administering the vaccinations through the federal pharmacy partnership program this week, but State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the start date was pushed back to Dec. 28 because of computer inputting issues.

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The state was one day past a Dec. 7 deadline — which Murphy described Monday as guidance — for submitting required paperwork to federal regulators that would have let it begin its rollout to long-term care facilities today, as several states are doing. In a statement, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. blamed Murphy's administration for the one-week delay on the rollout.

“After more than 7,100 lives were lost in New Jersey’s nursing homes and veterans homes, you would think the Murphy administration would waste no effort to ensure that the remaining residents would be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Kean said. “Instead, those vulnerable seniors, our parents and grandparents, will remain at risk even longer over the administration’s failure to file simple paperwork on time."

Doug Steinhardt, who recently resigned as former Republican Party chairman, also called on Persichilli to resign over the delay. Murphy, at his coroanvirus briefing Monday, answered a question about that statement by calling Steinhardt "Doug Who?" and pushed aside criticism "from the cheap seats."

Persichilli said many of the groups that are to be included in the vaccine plan do not have advanced IT record-keeping, so including all of the necessary data took longer than initially anticipated.

Persichilli said the CDC has recently expanded the types of facilities that can be included in the program beyond long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“We were most concerned for the 4,300 members of the staff and 1,250 residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our give state developmental centers,” she said. Also a priority: “the 7,600 individuals in our 650 group homes and other long term residential facilities.”

Those other facilities include 21,600 seniors living in federal Housing and Urban Development residences and also continuing care retirement communities.

“Although we do not have final confirmation of the number of facilities accepted into the program as yet, we are hopeful that many of these facilities are in the program and will be able to receive vaccines,” said Persichilli.

Persichilli said the rollout "will take some time" because of the large number of people involved. Vaccinations will take place at sites where those residents live.

Persichilli said another challenge has been to make sure there was ample vaccine available to begin the program. The CDC required New Jersey and other states to have 50% of the needed doses reserved for the program a week prior to the launch, but that required some reallocation and shifting of supplies after the federal government changed the total amount of vaccine it was delivering to the Garden State last week, she said.

She said the first vaccinations will be given next week at long term care facilities, then assisted living facilities and residents and staff at other facilities will follow.

Murphy said the vaccine rollout “is not an easy straight-line process."

"It is one of the most ambitious federal government initiatives ever undertaken," he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

READ MORE: LOVED & LOST — NJ’s lives lost to COVID-19


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