Many New Jerseyans are now eligible for another COVID vaccine dose, and the state is reopening megasites to meet the expected demand.
NEW JERSEY — With more than 100,000 additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in New Jersey as of Monday afternoon and recently expanded third dose/booster shot eligibility, the state is planning to reopen a megasite this week to keep up with the anticipated demand, according to state officials.
Last week, the federal government authorized a single booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those who received their second dose six months ago. See related: COVID-19 Booster Shot Or Third Dose: Here’s The Difference
The state began tracking the number of additional doses administered on Monday. In addition to those who have already received their third dose, there is an expected high demand for boosters, as about 1.2 million people had received the Pfizer vaccine as of April 1, Murphy said during a Monday afternoon news conference.
“We believe we’ll be able to manage the demand, but we’ve said for quite some time that we expect a supply-demand imbalance, at least early on,” Murphy said, adding later in the news conference that that hasn’t happened yet. “My guess tells me we’ll have some of that, but not remotely at the same level.”
To meet this demand, New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination megasite in Gloucester County will reopen this week. Other mega-sites will open at later dates, as officials previously said one mega-site would open in each region: North, Central and South Jersey.
Megasites provide vaccinations to all New Jersey residents, regardless of where they live. Other sites are ramping up to serve residents in each county, Murphy said.
“We have all the numbers broken down by county, and we expect every county with support from the department of health to open up a static vaccination site,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “Appointments will be able to be made at the end of the week, and we are encouraging walk-ins to federally-qualified health centers, acute care hospitals, your local department of health and any existing sites.”
Murphy said that New Jersey will follow the same philosophy on getting additional doses out as it did previously.
“We never asked you to prove that you have X or you worked in Y or give us your driver’s license or any of that,” Murphy said. “Our view was the more shots in arms, assuming you’re eligible, and you’re doing the right thing, the faster we get that done, the better and safer we’ll be as a state. That’s the same for the boosters.”
Murphy also reiterated who was now eligible for third doses following the Centers for Disease Control’s approved guidance on Friday from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Eligibility extends to anyone who received the two-shot Pfizer vaccine six months ago and more and who are:
- 65 years or older and who live in long-term care facilities;
- Between the ages of 50 and 64 and have underlying medical conditions;
- Between the ages of 18 and 49 and have underlying medical conditions based on their benefits and risks; and
- Between the ages of 18 and 64 and are at increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus due to their employment, including healthcare workers, teachers, grocery store workers and public transportation employees, among others.
Underlying conditions are similar to what was followed last year, Persichilli said. This includes:
- Chronic kidney disease;
- Chronic lung disease;
- Dementia and other neurological conditions;
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes;
- Down syndrome;
- Heart conditions;
- Liver disease;
- Sickle cell disease;
- Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant;
- Those who have had a stroke; and
- Those battling substance abuse.
It is not an all-encompassing list, Persichilli said. Anyone with a pre-existing condition should consult their doctor.
However, only those who received the Pfizer shot are eligible for booster shots or third doses.
“If you received the Moderna shot or the J&J, please sit tight for now,” Murphy said. “The Pfizer shot is more likely to cover older adults, persons with disabilities, health care workers and others at greater risk.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement that the agency “will also evaluate with similar urgency available data in the coming weeks to swiftly make additional recommendations for other populations or people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.”
There are over 1,600 vaccination sites across New Jersey – more than 1,000 of which offer the Pfizer vaccine. To find a vaccination site and book an appointment online, visit covid19.nj.gov/finder or call the state’s Vaccine Call Center at 1-855-568-0545.