New Jersey officials encourage residents to ‘get a booster’

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to supporters

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to supporters during an election night party in Asbury Park, N.J., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

There are close to four million New Jersey residents that are eligible for COVID booster shots. But only 24% of those eligible have received them, according to state Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli.

Officials encouraged residents Monday to get the booster shot.

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“We know there is confusion regarding whether you are eligible for a booster,” the commissioner said. So, she clarified who is eligible during Gov. Phil Murphy’s weekly COVID briefing.

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Perischilli said “get a booster” if:

  • If you are 65 years of age or older.
  • If you are 18 years of age or older and
    • Live or work in a high-risk setting, like a school, health care, transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, restaurants, supermarkets, and other “front-facing” occupations.
    • Live in a congregate setting or long-term care setting.
    • Have an underlying health condition such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, or an immune disorder

The commissioner said residents should check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to verify guidelines and other qualifications for a booster. Residents can also phone New Jersey’s Vaccine Call Center at 855-568-0545 if they have questions.

Persichelli says residents who are eligible but have not received their booster shots might not know that their immunity against COVID has weakened since their initial doses months ago. She cited a recent Science Magazine article that followed vaccine effectiveness within the Veterans Health Administration between February and October of 2021.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine lost the most effectiveness, according to data in the article. In February, it had shown to be 86.4% effective. By October, it had declined to 13.1% effective. The Moderna shot had declined from 89.2% to 58% effective, while Pfizer’s vaccine had declined from 86.9% to 43.3% effective.

“The article also showed the power of boosters to protect against this virus,” she said. “Administration of booster doses for individuals 60 years and older, resulted in 11.3 times reduction in confirmed infections and 19.5 times reduction in severe illness.”

Echoing the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Persichilli said boosters are “not a bonus,” but an essential part in fighting the pandemic, encouraging residents to make appointments to get a booster shot, especially with the holidays approaching.

“To enjoy the holidays with loved ones and friends, and avoid putting anyone you love — including yourself — at risk, get a booster,” she said.

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