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N.J. coronavirus update: State pushes boosters, especially in under-vaccinated areas

2021 06 16-e lee-ladaena thomas-penns grove nj puerto rican action committee-covid vaccine clinic shot
Emma Lee
Penns Grove Mayor LaDaena D. Thomas gets a COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in her town hosted by Puerto Rican Action Committee on June 16, 2021.

Prior to the CDC’s announcement, only 24% of state residents who qualified received booster shots. At the time, shots were limited to those aged 65 and older and people who work in high-risk settings, like communal living or retail.

Now that the federal government has approved COVID-19 vaccine boosters for everyone, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wanted to be clear as he began his COVID briefing on Monday:

“Everybody, over the age of 18 who is six months removed from the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, is now eligible for a booster — period,” he said.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration approved Friday expanding booster doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for all adults. Recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a second dose two months after their first one.

“Many of us will be gathering with families this year, much more like prior to the pandemic,” the governor said. “We do not want to see cases spike.”

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said her department has worked to make sure the public is aware of the booster shots, especially in under-vaccinated areas. State Police will be helping to set up clinics in Burlington and Somerset counties in the coming weeks. A Gloucester County site has been operating since September.

“We have extensive, ongoing outreach through the state’s vaccine call center, canvassing efforts in high priority communities, and a public awareness campaign to provide education on the importance of booster doses,” she said.

Citing that COVID-19 is a “virulent adversary,” she encouraged residents who weren’t vaccinated to do so before holiday gatherings or travel, then follow up with a booster shot. Persichilli further encouraged all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to continue to take precautions; wear a mask, stay home if you are sick, wash your hands frequently, and maintain physical distance.

“The message hasn’t changed,” she said. “We’ve been giving the same message now for 21 months.”