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Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

New Jersey gets $591 million for testing, vaccine distribution

By Nikita Biryukov, January 22 2021 10:21 am

New Jersey’s Department of Health will receive $591 million in federal funding to prop up its COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) and Cory Booker (D-Newark) announced Friday.

“As cases continue to rise across New Jersey, these vital federal funds will ensure our state can keep up with testing demands and distribute the vaccine efficiently,” Menendez said. “These steps will help us save lives and defeat the virus once and for all. Although we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we must stay vigilant and continue wearing masks and practice social distancing. I also encourage those eligible to sign-up immediately to receive a vaccine.”

The bulk of the money, $511 million, will go to expanding the state’s testing capacity as it moves to inoculate its residents against the virus.

The remaining $80 million is devoted to vaccine distribution.

“As New Jersey continues to handle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critically important that a coordinated response be built on a partnership between federal and state agencies,” Booker said. “This federal funding will help our state invest in expanded testing and vaccine distribution, while also helping to build a more resilient healthcare system that serves the health and well-being of New Jerseyans.”

The Centers for Disease Control made the award as part of a stopgap stimulus package that cleared Congress and was signed into law last month.

It’s not clear how the funds will affect the state’s vaccination strategy. Officials have said vaccine supply is currently the largest roadblock, and since New Jersey receives its vaccine doses from the federal government, the additional funds are unlikely to solve that.

But that problem might be remedied by President Joe Biden’s invocation of the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine production.

“The New Jersey Department of Health is grateful for this substantial investment in public health initiatives that will support our response to COVID-19,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “These funds will support expansion of testing, contact tracing and prevention of COVID–19, as well as build capacity that will provide the foundation for addressing future infectious disease outbreaks.”

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