University Hospital workers in Newark get 2nd dose of Pfizer vaccine

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey has administered more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of about 400,000 received so far, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

The figure includes mostly front-line health care workers, according to the governor. An additional 120,000 doses has been set aside for long-term care residents and workers, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

That leaves a gap of about 180,000 doses, according to the commissioner. She said a lag in reporting - particularly among psychiatric facilities - partly explains why there's such a gap, but also noted that department officials were hearing anecdotally that people didn't want to risk taking the vaccine before the holidays in case there were negative side effects.

The news came as health care workers in New Jersey who were the first in the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine received their second doses Monday.

The vaccine roll out has been slow nationwide, but Governor Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli were on hand to watch the follow-up doses taking place at University Hospital in Newark.

First up was Maritza Beniquez, a 56-year-old emergency room nurse who was the first to be vaccinated in New Jersey.

"I now have body armor," Beniquez said. "Walking away now, I know that by the end of this month, I am 95% immune. 95% sure that I can kiss my grandchildren and not get sick. 95% sure that I can go and turn a patient, suction a patient, treat a patient. I am 95% sure that when I go to the restaurant, I won't get sick. So this is, it's a game-changer. And it's my body armor."

Beniquez said she expects to feel a little soreness at the injection site, and that after her first shot, she had a slight headache, but nothing more. She doesn't expect anything different with the second dose.

"But again, if that's the worst that I can expect, I'll take that over an intubation any day of the week," she said.

The state is still trying to inoculate as many frontline workers as possible, and in Paterson, officials have opened a new location to serve health care employees including those in practices like dentists and funeral homes.

Paterson leaders say the site will be open six days a week, and they are receiving more vaccines to meet the need. Still, they are in need of nurse volunteers to help administer the shots.

They say the sooner they get the vaccine to distributed to those in the medical field, the sooner they can move on to delivering the shot to those considered essential workers.

New Jersey reported nearly 500,000 positive cases, with 17,223 deaths, up 38 overnight, according to the governor.

The state's plan calls for vaccinating 70% of the adult population in six months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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