New Jersey health officials plan to approve adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine “as soon as” they gain emergency federal approval to do so, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.
“This approval would be a big step for the health not just of our state broadly, but for our school communities,” the governor said during his May 10 daily COVID-19 press briefing.
“[F]ormal plans to guide both parents and guardians, and practitioners, are being finalized by the Department [of Health] and we anticipate being able to transition to vaccinating eligible adolescents as soon as Pfizer receives its emergency use authorization,” he added.
Under Pfizer’s current plans, the global drugmaker is seeking emergency federal approval beginning this week to put shots in the arms of patients between the ages of 12 and 15. And they’re running studies to vaccinate children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old.
New Jersey’s public health goals call for fully vaccinating 4.7 million adults who live, work or learn in the state by June 30. As of May 10, the state vaccinated more than 3.6 million adults, making up 4.5 million New Jerseyans who’ve gotten at least one shot. State health officials contend the 4.7 million threshold is key to building widespread herd immunity that could curtail the spread of the virus, and in turn, lead to lifting COVID-19 business restrictions en masse.
“This fight doesn’t just end magically when we get to 4.7 million,” the governor said. “The 12-15 year-olds will be added as a separate category. The 4.7 million is 16 and up, we will then have other objectives with the 12-to-15.”
Most of the delivered shots are from the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and a small percentage are from the one-shot Johnson & Johnson inoculation. Interest, nonetheless, has lagged in recent weeks.
According to the governor, health officials are looking at partnering with schools, pediatricians, local pharmacies or one of the state’s six vaccine mega-sites.
“We are also going to remain focused on ensuring that parents have access to information,” the governor said. “The broad-based outreach campaign … will be a large part of this. But we know we can also undertake this by working directly with, and within, our schools.”
The efforts will fall under New Jersey’s “Operation Jersey Summer,” an aggressive campaign to reach the final 1 million arms of adults, many hesitant and on the fence about getting the vaccine.
That plan includes hundreds of “boots on the ground” that’ll knock on doors across the state to promote the vaccine and available sites, coordination with local religious and community leaders, free beer from participating breweries for those who get a first shot in May, walk-ins accepted at the six vaccination mega-centers, dosage supply to local officials and medical offices, and hyperfocus on some of the most urban neighborhoods where vaccination rates have lagged the most across the state.
“This is one of the areas where we anticipate using our mega-sites in a hub-and-spoke model and bringing doses from our megasites directly to the communities where these adolescents and their families reside,” Murphy continued.