With New Jersey having pre-ordered 205,000 pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and a sprawling county and local health care infrastructure in place, Gov. Phil Murphy vowed the state would be able to rapidly activate its system for vaccinating children ages 5 to 11.
“We have the distribution network in place, and we will be ready to hit ‘start’ the moment we are given the green light,” Murphy, who is facing reelection Tuesday, said during his COVID-19 press briefing on Nov. 1 in Trenton. He assured that none of the children in that age group would be required to get the jab to attend school.
Currently, the Pfizer roll-out still needs to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control, which it is expected to do this week.
Millions of New Jerseyans who’ve gotten the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine can now get a booster shot, and can mix and match, Murphy said last week, following federal approval.
“[O]pening up eligibility for our younger kids can be an absolute game changer in our fight against COVID, especially in making our schools safer places and, beyond that, enhancing protection for our families and communities,” the governor continued.
A total of just more than 6 million people who live, work or study in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated, and 12.5 million first, second and third – or booster shots – have been administered.
Four percent of the total doses have been given to children ages 12 to 15, and 2% were given to those 16 and 17 years of age.
There are 760,000 children in New Jersey ages 5 to 11 who would be able to get the vaccine, which would be at a lower dose than for anyone 12 and over, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“The Biden Administration has pledged its partnership with states to ensure the rollout of the supply necessary to vaccinate our kids, and we look forward to this plan moving forward,” the governor said.
The White House’s plans call for children to get one-third the Pfizer vaccine dosage given to adults, given at two doses three weeks apart. They would be stored in 10-dose vials in cartons of 10 each, which could be kept in standard refrigeration for up to 10 weeks, and ultra-cold storage for up to six months. Medical personnel would need to use smaller needles for children, and that supply would also need to be coordinated by the federal government.
Persichilli said the Pfizer doses for children would be packaged with special lettering and a bright orange cap so that they can be easily discerned from doses meant to adults.
The state’s Gloucester County mega-site would offer the vaccine to children, Persichilli said—and a total of nearly 204,000 doses will be distributed to 230 sites across the state. All 21 counties will have an official site where the vaccine where be available for children, including 65 primary care sites, 40 independent pharmacies, 37 county and local sites, 35 acute-care hospitals, 27 federally qualified health centers, 18 chain pharmacies, and six other urgent care and university sites.
School nurses and clinics where children might be more comfortable would be encouraged to offer the shot, the health commissioner said, while many schools will host events to promote the vaccine to their students.
So far, the state Health and Education departments have gotten 51 requests for school-endorsed vaccine events across 14 counties.
Larger sites would have sectioned off areas for children, staffed by pediatricians and primary care physicians, “so that children do not have to be afraid to get their immunizations in a large area,” she said last week.