Gov. Murphy blames Walgreens, Trump administration for slow COVID vaccine rollout

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday repeated the state’s goal to vaccinate 70% of the state’s adult population against COVID-19 in six months. But the program is getting off to a slow start, and the governor is blaming Walgreens and the Trump administration.
“We have the distribution. So, we have adopted completely the attitude, ‘If you build it, they will come,” Murphy said.
Nearly 400,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, but it's a pace that's not quick enough for the governor or for his administration's critics.
“The only state in the country that did not take the federal partnership, with CVS and Walgreens? It's West Virginia. And if you look at how well states are doing, they're No. 1 in the country,” Murphy said.
The outgoing Trump administration partnered with CVS and Walgreens to handle vaccinations at long-term care facilities. But Murphy said he's not happy with their progress.
“I have to say, they have to punch at a higher weight, especially Walgreens,” Murphy said.
Only about 50,000 doses of the more than 200,000 reserved for nursing homes residents, staff and those in developmental centers have been administered so far.
“Vaccinating these vulnerable residents is a significant undertaking,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“If you look at us in terms of what we control, the distributions that are controlled, outside of CVS and Walgreens, you know, it is a very meaningful improvement relative to the federal program. I believe it gets better. First of all, there aren't many choices,” Murphy said.
The governor said that he hopes that the situation changes under the Biden administration.
“We could take a lot of federal doses right now, and we just need more out of the feds. God willing, we’ll turn the page tomorrow with a new administration,” he said.
The health commissioner says that a toll-free phone number to schedule vaccinations will be up and running next week
A spokesperson for Walgreens says in a statement, "While we know there are and will be bumps along the way that impact vaccine distribution and administration, we are committed to adapting our processes to help meet the needs of our communities and the patients we serve. This is a monumental effort and Walgreens is proud to help roll out the COVID-19 vaccine and be a part of this complex undertaking. Of the 95 skilled nursing facilities in New Jersey we are contracted to serve, we have completed first doses at nearly 80 facilities and have 40 more clinics scheduled over next seven days for first and second doses. Walgreens is on track to complete first dose clinics around the country in skilled nursing facilities by Jan. 25."