Tens of thousands of additional doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will arrive in the Garden State this week. New Jersey is expecting more than 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in that time as well.

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As these valuable shipments make their way into New Jersey, they are quietly being escorted by a heavily armed security force.

Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said while no credible threat has been received it’s possible some group, organized crime syndicate or even foreign actors might attempt to try and steal vaccines to sell them on the black market, or to use in some other way.

“We try to forecast and think through any possible scenario. Those are scenarios that could happen and those are ones that we just can’t afford to happen at this point,” he said.

He stressed “even though the vaccines are rolling out for free, they’re a valuable commodity and we don’t want any type of bad actor to take advantage of the shipments and supplies.”

Maples would not talk about security specifics, however he did confirm New Jersey Homeland Security officials are working with multiple agencies to ensure vaccine shipments are not threatened in any way. That includes local police, county law enforcement, State Police, the FBI, U.S. Marshalls, and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

"We’re really putting a lot of resources into making sure that the supply chains are secure, not just from a physical attack or theft, but also the cyber-spaces," Maple said.

Maples said one possible threat is hackers looking to break into databases, “either interrupting the vaccine program, or maybe stealing the code, the intellectual property behind it, the actual chemical equations that make up the vaccines, for example.”

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He added there is also concern about anti-vaxxer protests at locations where the vaccinations are being given.

Maples stressed everyone has a right to rally for or against something “but if were to impede for example someone from getting the vaccine, that becomes a problem.”

"This is really one of the most vital issues we’ll be dealing with and working on certainly this year, or potentially over the last decade or longer," Maples said.

But New Jersey officials, he said, are confident the vaccines will be delivered in an expedient and secure manner, and that everyone that wants to take them can do so and we can get society back on its feet.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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