New Jersey officials double down on promoting boosters against COVID

A health care worker holds up a syringe containing a COVID-19 vaccine at Roosevelt Care Center

File photo: A health care worker holds up a syringe containing a COVID-19 vaccine at Roosevelt Care Center in New Jersey on Dec. 28, 2020. (Edwin J. Torres/ N.J. Governor’s Office).

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New Jersey officials are continuing to urge more residents to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and stepping up outreach in areas where less than 50% of the eligible population has gotten a booster shot.

As of Wednesday, more than 6.4 million residents have received either their two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 2.8 million eligible residents have received their booster shots.

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State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on data from the Los Angeles Health Department provides “further evidence” that boosters provide protection from being hospitalized with the virus.

“During the [study] period that omicron variant was predominant, unvaccinated persons had infection and hospitalization rates at 3.6 and 23 times higher, respectively, than those that were fully vaccinated,” she noted. “With a booster, it was two and 5.3 times higher, respectively, than those of fully vaccinated persons without a booster.”

Many of the outreach strategies officials will use to promote boosters are already being implemented.

Persichilli said the department’s vaccine call center (855-568-0545) can assist with scheduling appointments, including for homebound residents, and sending text message reminders to those who need booster shots.

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“Last month alone, there were 173,000 outbound calls to support booster education and events,” she said.

The state’s Grateful for the Shot initiative has partnered with the faith community to help boost vaccine and booster rates. The initiative is styled from Souls to the Polls events that encourage Black voter turnout.

In addition to the community outreaches, the state has five vaccine megasites:

  • The former Lord & Taylor store at the Fashion Center of Paramus, in Bergen County.
  •  The former A.C. Moore store in Mount Laurel, in Burlington County
  •  The Gloucester County Health Department in Sewell
  • The former Macy’s store at the Preakness Shopping Center in Wayne, in Passaic County
  • The former Lord & Taylor store at Bridgewater Commons, in Somerset County

Persichilli adds that key department staff have been designated as vaccine ambassadors working in municipalities where booster rates are below 50%.

“We are bringing the vaccine to where people are during weekends [and] evening hours to make it as convenient as possible for people to get boosted,” she said.

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