TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey is preparing to administer its first COVID-19 vaccines in what Gov. Phil Murphy said will be a “momentous day.”

The first vaccines will be given to healthcare workers at University Hospital in Newark on Tuesday morning, with Democrat Murphy and other officials touring the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“It’s a momentous day, a day we’ve all been waiting for,” Murphy said Monday. But he cautioned that several difficult months lie ahead as the state continues to struggle to control the virus’s resurgence in recent weeks.

As an indication, Murphy reported more than 700 coronavirus patients were in hospital intensive-care units at last count in the state, the first time that number had been surpassed since late May. Twenty-five more deaths were reported, bringing the state's total of confirmed COVID-19 deaths to nearly 16,000, with more than 1,800 more deaths considered probable.

Tuesday “is the establishment of our beachhead. It’s going to take several more months of fighting,” Murphy said.

New Jersey will receive three shipments of the Pfizer vaccine this month, beginning with about 76,000 doses this week and another 86,000 next week, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

If the Moderna vaccine is given emergency authorization later this week by the Food and Drug Administration, New Jersey could get about 150,000 doses by early next week and 65,000 in a second shipment, she said. Healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff will get the vaccine first.

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and will be administered only at hospitals for now. The Moderna vaccine doesn't require the same type of storage, which will allow for wider distribution, Persichilli said. A list of sites will be finalized this week, she said.

Murphy added that he didn't envision raising indoor dining limits from their current level of 25 percent for New Year's Eve.


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