By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey will see six vaccine “mega-sites” open up across the state next month, along with more than 200 smaller sites at hospitals, pharmacies, and urgent care clinics. 

Gov. Phil Murphy said the six mega-sites will be able to provide shots to people in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers and other vulnerable populations, and some in Phase 1B, which includes other essential workers. 

After people in those two phases receive the vaccine, it will be made available to the general public. 

The six mega-sites will be at the following locations: 

  • Meadowlands Complex, Bergen County
  • Rockaway Townsquare Mall, Morris County
  • New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, Middlesex County
  • Moorestown Mall, Burlington County
  • Rowan College of South Jersey, Gloucester County
  • Atlantic City Convention Center, Atlantic County

The other 200 satellite vaccine sites will open up at locations such as hospitals, federally qualified health centers, urgent care clinics, chain pharmacies, and other localized sites. At least 215 locations across the state had registered as vaccine sites as of Dec. 18, and that number is expected to increase as the vaccine becomes more available. 

The Montclair Health Department has already registered as a vaccination site, and expects to start holding microclinics in January. This week, Essex County opened five vaccine centers, which are all expected to start offering appointments next week. Montclairians can make appointments for a clinic at the former K-Mart in South Orange.

Mountainside Hospital received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 17. 

“The vaccine’s mere presence in our state is not enough to move the needle,” Murphy said, warning that it will still take time for the vaccine to start bringing case numbers down. 

The Pfizer vaccine is being shipped primarily to hospitals, because the vaccine requires cold storage that only certain hospitals can provide. The Moderna vaccine, which is on the verge of receiving FDA approval, is expected to be sent to local and county facilities that are offering vaccines. 

As of Dec. 18, 2,149 New Jersey health care workers have received the vaccine, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. 

On Dec. 28, the Department of Health will work with the CDC, CVS, and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and staff at long-term care facilities. 

New Jersey’s goal is to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the state’s adult population over the next six months. 

“Yes, it is aggressive. Yes, it is aspirational. But it is what we need to do so that this virus has nowhere to go,” Persichilli said. 

It is expected, however, that demand for the vaccine will outstrip supply for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Persichilli said that New Jersey’s expected vaccine shipments have been reduced, for reasons that are still being determined.

For the month of December, New Jersey was expected to receive a total of 492,075 vaccine doses, of which 273,375 were of the Pfizer vaccine. That number has now been cut back to 392,800, including 183,300 Pfizer vaccines, Persichlli said. Those numbers represent a 33 percent drop in Pfizer vaccines, and 20 percent decrease in vaccines overall. 

Murphy said he had spoken that day with senior executives at Pfizer, and he said they were not involved in, or aware of the reasons for, the reduction of the shipments. 

Today’s numbers

On Dec. 18, health officials reported 3,975 new cases, compared to 4,319 on Dec. 17, bringing the state total to 423,226. Another 44 new deaths were reported, compared to 77 on Dec. 17, bringing the total to 16,216, and another 1,908 deaths are classified as probable COVID-19 deaths. Hospitals also reported another 71 deaths, which have not yet been confirmed as COVID-19. 

The positivity rate now stands at 10.08 percent, compared to 10.95 percent on Dec. 14, and the virus transmission rate now stands at 1.03, compared to 1.13 on Dec. 14. 

Hospitals reported 3,582 patients on Dec. 17, including 715 intensive care patients and 480 ventilators in use. The night before, hospitals reported 3,637 patients, including 726 intensive care patients and 488 ventilators in use. 

Essex County health officials reported 387 new cases, compared to 331 on Dec. 17, bringing the total to 43,008. The number of deaths was revised downward by one, compared to the five new deaths reported on Dec. 17, bringing the total from 2,083 back down to 2,082. 

Montclair health officials reported 11 new cases on Dec. 18, bringing the total to 1,192 cases. The number of deaths remains at 58.