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

Keidy Ventura receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J., Monday, April 19, 2021. Ventura wanted to get the vaccine as soon as possible to protect her multi-generational family that she lives with. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

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.”

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.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal