All N.J. residents should be eligible for COVID vaccine now, Newark mayor says

Posted Mar 24, 2021

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka feels that any New Jersey resident who wants to get the coronavirus vaccine should be able to do so as soon as possible.

“I think they should make it available to anyone who wants to take it now, actually,” Baraka said during a weekly interview series posted Wednesday night on the city’s Facebook page. “I think they should do that today.”

The mayor made the comment after he was asked if the slower rollout of the vaccine was the result of a supply or distribution issue.

“I think they both collide,” he said. “They don’t have an unlimited amount of vaccines, so they are almost being rationed off while they have this schedule of people who are able to get vaccinated first.”

Governor Phil Murphy addressed comments about the vaccine rollout pace earlier Wednesday during his coronavirus briefing and said the state plans on increasing vaccine eligibility as “reasonably” as possible.

“We’re going to open things up as soon as we can reasonably open it up, and I think it’s going to be somewhat dependent...if not mostly dependent on supplies that we get and the indications we get out of the feds,” Murphy said.

“Remember, we’ve got more communities coming online on Monday,” Murphy said, referring to the thousands of essential restaurant and grocery workers, as well as employees in a handful of other industries, that will become eligible to receive a vaccine on March 29. “We’re not making any news today, but I would hope sooner than later we can signal at least probably one other set of communities that will come online at some point, I hope not too long in the distant future.”

Murphy added that the state does plan on opening up vaccine eligibility to all adults on May 1, per President Joe Biden’s comments earlier this month after he said he expected the country to have enough supply to be able to fully vaccinate adults by the end of that month.

Baraka said Wednesday that while many people have been vaccinated in Newark, not all of them are Newark residents.

“So we vaccinate police, we vaccinate fire, we’re doing school teachers, we’re doing all those things and those people are not all 100% Newark residents, so we’re helping to vaccinate people throughout the county but Newark residents are still at a very low level,” he said. “We have to keep track of how many Newark residents have been vaccinated and that’s important.”

As of Wednesday, the city has reported 33,612 cases and 905 deaths from the coronavirus, county officials said.

Baraka also said he wants to make it easier for people to register for the vaccine and officials on Tuesday announced a program aimed at helping make that happen -- the Newark Equitable Vaccine Initiative. The program is being led locally by community groups working to increase access to and equity in vaccine distribution in the city.

It’s part of a national pilot program by The Rockefeller Foundation that is focused on creating a community-driven model for building equity into vaccine distribution and increasing access to vaccinations in Black and brown communities, according to a release about the initiative from United Way of Greater Newark, the organization that has spearheaded it.

“Equitable vaccine distribution is a challenge across the globe, especially in majority Black and brown communities, which, because of historic racial inequities, have less access to technology, primary care providers, and vaccine supply,” said Catherine Wilson, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Newark. “Newark is no different, with our COVID-19 positivity rates and death rates among the highest in New Jersey and Essex County.”

Newark was one of seven cities selected for the pilot program.

Other local officials have called for more vaccine doses for Newark and Essex County.

This week, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. called upon members of Essex County’s Federal delegation to urge Biden to allocate more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Essex County.

“We have proven our vaccination initiatives to be efficient and effective, yet our weekly allotment has remained at 12,000 doses,” DiVincenzo wrote in the letter. “If we received more doses, we could put shots in even more arms. I believe our sites are grossly underutilized. We have the capacity to be vaccinating between 25,000 and 30,000 people per week - if only we had more doses... if New Jersey received a larger allocation from the Federal government, then more could be earmarked for Essex County.”

The governor said Wednesday that he expects the vaccine supply to hopefully begin meeting the demand in the coming weeks and urban communities will be given better access to it.

“(State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli) and I were on the phone with the team this morning talking about in the very near term, supply’s hopefully going up from the feds and using things like the mobile vans at our disposal hopefully sooner than later that can go deep into urban communities, especially that have been harder to reach,” he said.

He said the state’s vaccine supply is going up by about 19% to nearly half a million doses next week.

New Jersey on Wednesday reported another 3,227 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 28 additional confirmed deaths as the number of people hospitalized in the state continues to climb above 2,000 patients.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-25 02:22:31 -0700