NJ Health Department readies for big COVID booster rollout
New Jersey public health officials are finalizing plans to begin rolling out COVID booster shots next month.
Last week, President Biden along with top officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced beginning September 20, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration and a CDC advisory committee, all adults who are full vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will be eligible to get a booster shot eight months after their second shot was given.
During the Monday afternoon COVID briefing in Trenton, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said a network of vaccination sites will be up and running next month in each county. Mega sites will be opened if needed.
She noted plans are still being finalized about how people will be notified when they become eligible.
It’s unclear whether individuals will get notified a few weeks or a month before booster eligibility, or if a more generalized booster reminder message will be emailed.
Persichilli indicated some appointment slots will be offered, but many booster locations will probably be offering walk-up service.
“We are planning for a range of scenarios while we await the FDA and CDC approval on boosters,” she said.
She stressed everyone who received the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot vaccines should get the booster because new CDC studies show there is waning immunity over time.
“In one study of adults in New York state, overall effectiveness against COVID-19 infections declined from 92% to about 80%, but they were still very effective against severe disease and death,” she said.
Gov. Phil Murphy noted new data from the state Health Department shows from August 2 to August 9 there were 7,611 new confirmed COVID cases, 1,397 of them were in fully vaccinated people, and of that group 1.8% (a total of 25) were hospitalized.
“Fully vaccinated individuals make up a very, very small minority of those entering our hospitals for COVID related illness,” he said.
Persichilli said once the booster program officially launches next month there will be an adequate supply to meet demand, but “we do expect a scramble as we saw in the beginning (of the vaccine rollout). The difference is we have many more outlets for people to get vaccinated" as well as more of a supply.
When the vaccine rollout started last December there were only a few dozen locations administering the vaccine, compared to about 1,500 right now.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.