The state Health Department is rolling out the Pfizer booster vaccine to seniors, frontline workers and residents with serious medical conditions, following federal approval last week.
According to a Sept. 24 announcement, anyone over the age of 65 and as young as 18 with a pre-existing medical condition, or who works in a “high-risk” workplace, could get the additional Pfizer jab, so long as their last shot was at least six months ago.
Upward of 1.1 million New Jerseyans could qualify to get a booster, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
And that means the reactivation of a massive health care infrastructure in mothballs since the late spring, after the all-time high demand for vaccines began to taper off, including the restoration of a single vaccine mega-site, likely the one at Rowan University in Gloucester County, Persichilli said.
There are more than 1,600 vaccination sites across New Jersey, of which more than 1,000 offer the Pfizer shot, and with can be found online or by calling the state’s Vaccine Call Center at 1-855-568-0545.
“We are currently working to make sure that we have the supply ready to go once the CDC and FDA give us their final booster guidance,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Sept. 20.
Getting the Pfizer booster shot largely works on the honors system: anyone wanting the added shot only has to self-identify and would not need to provide any medical condition nor a doctor’s note, according to the Health Department.
Still, Murphy said he anticipated that most New Jerseyans were “doing the right thing and behaving responsibly,” rather than lying to cut in line for a booster shot.
“When faced with the alternative to have more layers of bureaucracy and proof and all that versus just get the shots in the arms, they’ve taken door No. 2, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Murphy added of the Health Department, saying he still had hopes more people in the state would continue to seek a shot.
According to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, out of the nearly 11.6 million COVID-19 vaccines administered, 3.5 million were from the first Pfizer dose and 3.1 million were from its second dose, which has to be taken roughly a month after the first.
Another 57,569 third shots of Pfizer – the latter for those with weakened immune systems – have been administered.
According to data, 4.4 million New Jerseyans have gotten their first or second shot of Moderna, while another 43,182 have gotten a third shot. And 442,628 people in the state have gotten the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine.
J&J data released last week shows high effectiveness from a second shot either two or six months after that initial jab.
Moderna and J&J have not been cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Food and Drug Administration for the booster, unlike Pfizer. Seeking out a J&J or Moderna booster before both receive FDA and CDC approval carries a higher degree of risk, said State Epidemiologist Christina Tan.
“Is there enough data to support whether or not it’s safe … That’s why our committees, these advisory committees, look at as much data as they have, and they make recommendations to FDA, to CDC, based on what they have,” she said last week.