(The Center Square) – A Republican state senator is calling for an investigation after New Jersey missed a federal deadline, preventing it from starting COVID-19 vaccinations at long-term care facilities on Monday.
Instead, the vaccinations will start Dec. 28.
“While one of the lead stories on most New York news stations over the last two days was celebrating the life-saving commencement of their long term care facility vaccination program … not a word was mentioned about New Jersey,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in a statement. “Why? Because New Jersey missed a filing deadline, resulting in a full 7-day delay in the commencement of this unquestionably life-saving program. That shocking and unfathomable reality should make every New Jerseyan sick to their stomach.
“When we think of the term ‘deadline’ it seldom occurs to us to take the term literally,” O’Scanlon added. “Here, avoidable death may well be the result of this delay.”
O’Scanlon wants “an accounting of those that could have been vaccinated over these precious (seven) days, but weren’t.” The lawmaker doesn’t believe it will “be hard to figure out how many lives were likely impacted, or ended, due to this delay. We get the reports every day.”
During a Monday news briefing, New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said, “the CDC has strict rules regarding when the long-term care program can be started.”
During a Friday news briefing, Persichilli said for the vaccinations to have started on Monday, “there was a deadline of the 7th for input of all the registered skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, of which we have over 650.”
“We missed that date by a day and we asked to be able to start on the 21st and they said no, you’ll start on the 28th,” Persichilli said. “It’s as simple as that.”
When asked about missing the deadline during a Monday news briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy said, “the last thing we need are people who don’t know what they’re talking about from the cheap seats.”
This “is not going to be a straight line,” Murphy said. “This is going to be, you have to accept it’s a little bit like we’ve been saying about the school year, it’s not a normal school year. … It is one of the most ambitious federal government initiatives ever undertaken.”
O’Scanlon wasn’t satisfied by the Murphy administration’s explanation. Other Republicans have also derided the administration for missing the deadline.
“The Commissioner’s excuse that there was too much data that needed to be provided doesn’t hold water, because one need look no further than over our border with New York to find a state that managed to accomplish the task,” O’Scanlon said. “So did officials in Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire and Maine.
“That New Jersey apparently had the opportunity to receive approval to commence [Monday], and blew that opportunity, is outrageous,” O’Scanlon added. “There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held accountable. If the administration won’t do it, the legislature must.”