More than 17,000 calls came in to New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline in the first hour it was open on Monday. By noon, that number had increased by 41,000, illustrating the public’s pent-up demand for information about the shots everyone wants but relatively few can get.
Thousands in the state who don’t have computer access or have questions about the vaccination process may be able to more easily access information, but getting an appointment remains difficult. New Jersey is still receiving about 100,000 doses each week, allocated by the federal government, health officials said Monday.
That number should be increasing soon as President Joe Biden aims to get 100 million people vaccinated during his first 100 days in office, but it is not clear how soon. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Monday the U.S. should be able to reach 2 million inoculations a day.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he still thinks the state can vaccinate as many as 4.7 million people — an amount that equals nearly two-thirds its adult population — by summer.
“My confidence level that we can get to that number has gone up meaningfully,” Murphy said during a briefing Monday. “Let’s hope it stays that way. Let’s hope I’m right.”
Even as confirmed deaths from cases diagnosed during the late fall and winter keep mounting, signs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania continued to indicate the surge is easing.
Pennsylvania reported 3,976 new cases on Monday, as well as 3,934 cases reported Sunday — the lowest daily tallies since early November. Numbers are typically lower at the start of the week. Hospitalizations were also declining, with 3,910 coronavirus patients being treated statewide on Monday, and the positivity rate dropped for the fifth week in a row. The state reported 138 coronavirus deaths for Sunday and Monday.
Hospitalization numbers are also “moving in the right direction” in New Jersey, Murphy said Monday. More schools around the state have moved to in-person and hybrid classes in recent weeks. New Jersey reported 3,694 cases and 21 deaths.
More vaccinations are being administered every day. New Jersey is giving about 25,000 shots per day, according to the Health Department, and has now given more than 492,000 first doses. More than 3 million people have pre-registered for the two-shot vaccine on the state’s website.
“We continue to have a tremendous imbalance between the demand for vaccine and the supply,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “We do know that more vaccine will arrive in coming weeks and months … We urge everyone to be patient.”
Other vaccines, such as one manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, are expected to be approved in the coming weeks, she said.
Pennsylvania has received more than 1.1 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Through Sunday, at least 680,219 doses had been administered in Pennsylvania, with 451,467 people having received their first dose and 114,376 getting both doses. These numbers do not include doses administered to nursing homes through the federal partnership with CVS.
In Philadelphia, which has its own vaccine allotment, 87,451 first doses of coronavirus vaccines had been given through Sunday, according to city data.
Delaware County also opened a vaccine call center on Monday, staffed weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by people who will answer county residents’ questions about vaccinations and testing. Bucks and Montgomery Counties have dedicated COVID-19 hotlines, too; Chester County directs residents to call the Health Department at 610-344-6225.
A recorded message on New Jersey’s hotline said it was experiencing “higher-than-expected call volumes” and directed callers to the state’s vaccine home page, but if callers remain on the line, they can choose from different options to access more information.
The call center provides a phone option for residents who don’t have internet access or need help navigating the state’s online resources. The state has a vaccine registration website at covidvaccine.nj.gov.
The call center is staffed with 250 agents who can provide information about vaccine site locations and answer questions about the process. Eventually, once more doses are available, they will assist people with making appointments. Operators are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Vaccine hotlines: New Jersey, 855-568-0545; Bucks County, 800-383-0371 or COVID19@buckscounty.org; Delaware County, 484-276-2100 or Covid19Resources@co.delaware.pa.us; Montgomery County, 610-970-2937.
Staff writers Rob Tornoe and Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.