With federal approval of boosters for all three versions of the COVID-19 vaccine and the state vaccine apparatus again kicking into high gear, University Hospital in Newark will be the first in New Jersey to require its staff to get an extra shot.
So far, only those who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have to get another inoculation and those employees have until Dec. 24 to do so, according to the Oct. 27 announcement. The Newark-based hospital is the state’s only public hospital and one of three Level One Trauma Centers in New Jersey.
“Hospital leadership will continue to monitor data to determine if any additional mandates will be required for employees who received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines,” the hospital said.
Because the federal approved the so-called “mix and match” of either the J&J, Moderna or Pfizer shot with their initial round, hospital staff can opt for any of the three available.
In New Jersey, those who got the second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine through April, and those who got their single Johnson & Johnson shot by August, are now eligible to receive a booster. But eligibility is limited to seniors and adults under 65 years of age with high-risk medical conditions, or who work in front-line industries such as health care, utilities, transit, grocery stores and public safety.
“Data and analysis indicate that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may no longer confer a level of effectiveness that prevents COVID-19 infection in enough of our employees if they are exposed, which has implications on our ability to keep vulnerable patients and families safe,” University Hospital CEO Shereef Elnahal said in a statement.
Data surrounding the need for a COVID-19 booster shot was debated over the summer and early fall by the global scientific community. Ultimately, the Food and Drug and Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved boosters. Attention now turns to expanding vaccine availability to children ages 5 to 11.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced in August that all health care staff in the state had until the following month to get the COVID-19 vaccine. That directive came at a time when resistance to the shots was helping drive nationwide outbreaks of the delta variant.
“We believe boosters are necessary to achieve this goal for those who received this single-dose vaccine,” Elnahal said.
Many hospitals, including some of the state’s largest health care networks, such as RWJBarnabas Health and Hackensack Meridian Health, both imposed vaccine mandates.
“Health care workers have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and with the Delta variant remaining active, booster doses will help increase immunity not only for recipients but will further protect the health care community,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in the statement from University Hospital, where she was previously the CEO.