New Jersey preparing for COVID booster shots ahead of federal authorization

A health care worker fills a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine.

A health care worker fills a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

New Jersey officials are moving ahead with making sure they can meet “anticipated demand” for COVID vaccine booster shots.

Advisory committees for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are expected to meet in the coming days to decide who would be eligible. The Biden Administration has set a goal to start administering the shots on Sept. 20.

But the federal agencies said it’s too soon to make a call on boosters for everyone. They recommended starting with older adults.

According to data from the U.S. and Israel, immunity generally begins to decline after six to eight months, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House medical advisor.

Outside of the debate on who should get a booster shot, Gov. Phil Murphy said state officials are working to make sure local governments and health providers are prepared to administer the shot.

“We’re doing this in recognition that the boosters could soon be open for all of you who received your second doses as recently … as six months ago,” he said, with the caveat that nothing “definitive” has come from the federal government.

Murphy adds that the state is ramping up capacity — from reopening vaccine megasites to sending doses to smaller distribution points — to meet what his administration “anticipates will be a very high demand.”

The total number of megasites for booster shots is to be determined. But Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at least one megasite is expected to be up “almost immediately” after federal authorization, with at least two other sites: one for each region of the state.

“We would like all 21 counties to have a vaccination site that people can be directed to, in addition to all of the existing outlets that we currently have,” she added.

As New Jersey is getting ready to administer booster shots, a debate remains active on whether booster shots are even necessary.

An international group of scientists, including two top U.S. regulators, in an opinion piece published in The Lancet – a scientific journal, argued that an average person does not need a booster shot. The group argued that the vaccines are working well, despite the even more contagious delta variant.

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