N.J. opens COVID-19 vaccine to seniors, those with chronic medical conditions

New Jersey residents 65 and older and younger residents with chronic medical conditions will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Thursday, The decision came Wednesday, the same day state health officials reported the highest daily count for new confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 6,922 new cases.

Gov. Phil Murphy said at his regular press briefing that there are not enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to give shots to everyone who is now eligible, but he said he hopes that changes in six to eight weeks. 

The eligibility change comes a day after federal health officials advised states to expand vaccine eligibility to people 65 years and older, and about a week after President-elect Joe Biden said he would release more of the vaccines to states instead of holding them back for second doses.

The governor said the decision to expand eligibility was largely based on the anticipation of increased deliveries of vaccines. But he also cautioned that people in the 65 and older category and those with chronic medical conditions could still be months away from actually getting shots due to a slow vaccine rollout and a limited vaccine supply.

“We had hospitals saying, ‘Listen, we want to open up beyond just our health care workers,’ ” Murphy said Wednesday. “We were already working toward that objective.”

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said smokers are also eligible for the vaccine because of their susceptibility to the virus. There are an estimated two million smokers in the state.

The medical conditions for people ages 16 to 64 that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • Obesity
  • Sickle cell
  • Type 2 diabetes

Women who are pregnant and people whose immune systems are compromised are also eligible, but Persichilli said they should check with their doctor before getting a shot.

No documentation of a medical condition is required to get vaccinated.

Residents seeking a COVID-19 vaccine must pre-register through the state’s online portal or their local or county portal.