The New Jersey Department of Health is wasting no time administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots after advisers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend that certain at-risk groups of people should receive a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after their second shot.
On Sept. 24, Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichelli released a statement “directing [the department’s] vaccination partners in the state to begin administering booster doses to eligible individuals immediately.”
According to the commissioner’s statement, the criteria for eligibility to receive a Pfizer booster dose includes: long-term care patients aged 65 years and older, those aged 50 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions, those aged 18 to 49 years with underlying medical conditions based on their individual benefits and risks and those aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupations or institutional settings.
More than 1,000 of the state’s 1,600 current vaccination sites offer the Pfizer vaccine. Individuals will not be required to show vaccine providers proof of a medical condition or a note from a medical provider in order to receive a booster dose, according to the commissioner’s statement.
Scott Woodside, Rowan University’s director for the Wellness Center, said in an email that the state is also offering boosters of Moderna, but only to moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals, a more stringent criteria than that to receive a Pfizer booster dose.
According to Woodside, the criteria to receive the Moderna booster shot includes: those who have been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or blood cancers, received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system, received a stem cell transplant within the last two years, have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency, have advanced or untreated HIV infection or are receiving active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response.
“There is immediate availability,” Woodside said. “If you fit the criteria and want to get your booster, do not delay.”
Pfizer boosters are available in the Owl’s Nest every Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Thanksgiving. Moderna boosters are available at the Clayton site (1200 North Delsea Drive); both sites are overseen by the Gloucester County Health Department, according to Woodside.
Local pharmacies, RowanMedicine and local healthcare systems also offer vaccines, according to the Wellness Center director.
“There is lots of access out there,” Woodside said.
Cases in the state are beginning to trend down as booster shots are administered according to data provided by Gov. Murphy at a recent COVID-19 briefing.
Of students taking in-person classes at Rowan: 87.1% are vaccinated, 8.6% have requested an exemption and over 700 students have not responded, according to the “Return to Rowan” section on Rowan’s website.
In addition, 81% of Rowan employees (including part-time faculty) are vaccinated. The state has not mandated higher education employees to vaccinate.
According to Rowan’s website, since Aug. 29, the university has reported 200 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases from its main campus, Cooper Medical School campus and Stratford campus.
More than 5.8 million New Jerseyans are now vaccinated, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.
Gloucester County ranks no. 14 in COVID-19 hospitalizations (2,829) and no. 15 in deaths (658) out of the state’s 21 counties.
Of those hospitalized statewide, 5% (4,582) were between the ages of 18 and 29. Of those who died statewide, 0.4% (98) were between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the same state data.
Statewide, there are currently 1,001 confirmed COVID-positive cases in the hospital, 243 patients in the ICU, 135 patients on ventilators and a current total of 24,691 confirmed deaths, according to the governor’s Twitter account.
On the national stage, the United States has shipped over 160 million vaccine doses around the world, according to data from the U.S. Department of State. President Joe Biden has pledged to buy more than 500 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to poorer countries. This would bring the country’s total promised vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.
Woodside is a firm supporter of the federal government’s efforts to help vaccinate lower-income countries.
“I believe the United States has a responsibility to support other nations in desperate need of vaccines,” Woodside said. “Which I know we are doing, but understanding that this is a global issue is very important to know.”
For more information on vaccines or to find a vaccination site near you, visit the state’s COVID-19 Information Hub.
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