Is it the beginning of the end of the pandemic?

on Tuesday, New Jersey is taking the first step in a months-long journey that will hopefully end the worst pandemic in modern history. Thousands of front-line healthcare workers are lining up at hospitals across the Garden State to get inoculated against COVID-19, with the first vaccine being administered to resident nurse Maritza Beniquez, of the emergency department at University Hospital in Newark.

For now, supplies are limited and the vaccine is being rationed to front-line workers and nursing home residents. The first hospitals to receive the first 76,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech ultra-cold chain vaccine this week are AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center, Cooper University Hospital Hackensack University Medical center, Morristown Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and University Hospital. Vaccines will be available at another 47 hospitals by the end of the week.

The FDA is expected to publish its analysis of a second vaccine today. Moderna claims its shot is also better than 90% effective. Gov. Phil Murphy says the state already is in negotiation for a supply of the Moderna drug.

The latest COVID-19 numbers for New Jersey show mixed news. As the nationwide death toll passed 300,000, New Jersey recorded another 25 deaths. We are on pace to exceed 16,000 by the end of the year.

There has only been a slight rise in hospitalizations but a spike in the number needing life supporting care.

New Jersey's rate of transmission has moved downward slightly, suggesting the virus is not spreading as rapidly as it has been in recent weeks.

When the pandemic will end is still up for much debate. Predictions range from spring to fall of 2021 and perhaps even early 2022. The "when" really depends on how effective the vaccines prove to be and how many people choose to get it. Polls in New Jersey and nationwide show a large degree of skepticism about vaccines that were developed in record time and rushed to market. A large percentage of adults say they will wait to be vaccinated in order to see what side effects appear.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said the fastest way to "herd immunity" is to have better than 75% of the adult population vaccinated. With few viable hosts for the virus to infect, it would die out. Murphy wants 70% of New Jersey's adult population to receive the shots over the next six months. That equates to 4.7 million residents.

Fauci told MSNBC on Monday that he could see a scenario where the pandemic ends "by the end of March, the beginning of April," and we could be "approaching some form of normality" by fall of 2021. Fauci's predictions are highly dependent on enough of you agreeing to be vaccinated.

The Trump administration is planning to spend $250 million on a nationwide campaign to encourage the vast majority of Americans to be vaccinated. Once enough vaccine is available, New Jersey is expected to launch a similar campaign.

Mass vaccination sites are already being set up in every New Jersey county as plans move forward to meet what is hope to be significant demand.

For now, the CDC has instructed states to give priority to front-line healthcare workers and nursing home residents. New Jersey is following those protocols. Fauci, however, predicts by spring the vaccine could be as easy to get as the vaccination for influenza. By April, Fauci suggests, "The general population can walk into a CVS or Walgreens and get vaccinated.”

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