This week we celebrated a milestone in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. With the initial rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the United States, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has begun to appear before us.
Like many of you, I was filled with both hope and pride on Tuesday morning when Governor Phil Murphy joined us in Newark at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School as we partnered with University Hospital in the first vaccinations in New Jersey. Robert Johnson, Dean of New Jersey Medical School and Interim Dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was the second individual vaccinated. Anticipating the pending shipment of the vaccine from Pfizer, University Hospital created the vaccine clinic at NJMS adjacent to the hospital. Staffed and structured with guidance from state and federal health officials, the clinic has the potential to administer at least 600 vaccinations daily. Nearly simultaneous to the event in Newark, colleagues from RWJBarnabas Health began vaccinating healthcare workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
Help has arrived in the form of the vaccine. In New Jersey, the initial allocation of vaccines during the first phase will be to those serving in paid and unpaid positions in health care settings as well as residents of long-term care facilities. The second phase, which will prioritize essential workers and those at high risk from the disease, will begin in very early 2021. Also, there is optimism that the FDA will soon grant Emergency Use Authorization to the Moderna vaccine, which was tested as part of a clinical trial at NJMS. The results for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, for which Rutgers was the #2 recruiting site in the world, will emerge soon as well. We are hopeful that these vaccines may be available to adults in the general public in the spring.
Our team will continue to bring you the latest updates and critical information on the pandemic. Yesterday, I began the first weekly COVID-19 Health Briefing, which will provide an opportunity for information sharing and clarification on COVID-19-related topics. In January, we will launch a podcast that will examine the critical, real-time challenges we are facing in our fight to recover from the pandemic.
While the news is good, the pandemic is far from over. Cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey have likely not yet peaked in this second wave. Contact tracers still face resistance and there is still much we do not know about this novel coronavirus. However, there is hope and much to look forward to as we begin our recovery.
Brian L. Strom
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences