NJ expands COVID vaccine eligibility to those 55+, other groups starting April 5

FILE- Coronavirus Vaccine.

New Jersey will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility beginning April 5 to people ages 55 and older, as well as to people 16 and older if they have intellectual or developmental disabilities, said Gov. Phil Murphy will Friday.

The expansion to millions of residents and those who work in New Jersey means millions more people will be able to get the vaccine. It comes just as the state expects to see what Murphy has called a quantum leap in the number of vaccines it receives from the federal government.

Starting next week, the state will receive 494,430 total vaccine doses from – a nearly 20% week-over-week increase.

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The newly eligible also include higher education educators and staffers, along with communication support workers, including engineers and members of the media.

There are more than 5,000 new COVID cases across the state, said Murphy during the briefing along with 2,174 patients hospitalized,  438 patients in intensive care units and 220 people on ventilators. There were 314 new cases and 31 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Real estate, building and home service workers will also be permitted to get shots, along with sanitation workers and bank tellers, accountants and other financial industry employees. Laundry service workers, utility workers and librarians round out the "1C" category that Murphy will greenlight Friday.

Murphy, a Democrat, plans to make the announcement at a vaccination center at Kean University in Union. He has set a goal of fully vaccinating 4.7 million people, or 70% of the adult population, by July.

So far, New Jersey's vaccination efforts are outpacing the country overall, with 15.8% of the state's population fully vaccinated, compared with 14.3% of the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty percent of New Jersey's population has had at least one dose, compared with 26.3% of the country overall, the CDC says.

Still, New Jersey is the No. 1 state in the country for new COVID-19 cases per capita over the past two weeks, a sign, the governor has said, of how stubborn the virus is.

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More than 3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the state, said Murphy during a briefing.

Currently, New Jersey's vaccine eligibility includes people ages 16-64 with chronic illnesses, as well as smokers, people 64 and older, health care and emergency first responders, and teachers. The full list of those eligible is at covid19.nj.gov.

President Joe Biden's administration has said all Americans should be eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Murphy has said the biggest problem with ramping up vaccinations to meet demand has been a lack of supply.