A coronvirus vaccine could be widely available in just a few months — Gov. Phil Murphy mentioned a six month timetable repeatedly Monday. But only two-thirds of the doctors and less than half of the nurses surveyed by the state Department of Health say they'll be among the first in line.

That presents multiple challenges for a state looking to prioritize distribution to at-risk healthcare workers, and hoping doctors can help convince their patients a vaccine is safe to take.

State health commissioner Judith M. Persichilli on Monday called upon the medical professionals to help develop confidence in the vaccine, as both she and Murphy said one won't be made available in New Jersey unless it's safe.

"It (the vaccine) won't be broadly distributed if all the tires have not been kicked," Murphy said Monday at one of his routine novel coronavirus media briefings.

A survey taken in October by the Department of Heath shows "significant concerns" about receiving the vaccination, as 66% of doctors and 47% of nurses said they would "definitely or probably" take it, according to Persichilli.

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"Given the level of hesitancy the department knows that an important part of our job is to share the science and the data with health care professionals," Persichilli said. "We want them to be more comfortable with getting the vaccine and also recommending the vaccine to their patients once it is generally available."

She said the "healthcare heroes" will be the priority in a first wave of vaccinations — as New Jersey officials game out scenarios for a limited or generous amount of vaccine availability. That will help protect their patients and their families as well, Persichilli said.

Some said as a reason they didn't want to be among the first to receive a vaccine but would be willing to take it at a later date once potential unexpected side effects were discovered.

New Jersey-based Pfizer said Monday its coronavirus vaccine trials appear to show about 90 percent effectiveness, with no participants falling seriously ill. Murphy said based on conversations he's had with private industry and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it's likely the Pfizer vaccine could be one of multiple available in a few months.

Murphy, announcing new restrictions on restaurants and bars, described the time until vaccine availability as a "six-month race to the finish line" when New Jerseyans and others would have to redouble their efforts to prevent spread of the virus.

Persichilli noted the Centers for Disease Control recommends in phase one of the rollout of a vaccine that healhcare workers — both paid and unpaid get the vaccine — be given priority, because they're at the highest risk of coming in contact with those who are contagious. A vaccine would be further distributed to at-risk populations as it opens more broadly to the general public.

The state's goal is to vaccinate 70% of the state's population once a vaccination is available, Murphy has said.

Persichilli during  a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday night, said she was concerned that a surge in coronavirus cases could overwhelm hospitals to the point where they cannot properly staff the distribution of a vaccine.

(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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