COVID-19 booster shots will be available in New Jersey in three weeks.
At least 2 million people will be eligible for the booster, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said, “almost certainly” requiring the state to reestablish its mega sites to inject such a high volume of people in just a few months.
With about 1,500 locations for the vaccine, Murphy said he is confident New Jersey will have the supply and capacity to administer another round of COVID shots beginning Sept. 20. But he said the state is trying to add more locations.
“If you have yet to get your first shot, now is the time to do it, because the demand is only going to pick up, again, within the next month,” Murphy said during his regular coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
As of Monday, 5.57 million people, or about 60% of the state’s total population, were fully vaccinated. More than 70% of adults have been vaccinated.
The booster would be necessary for those who received the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines; data on whether the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs a booster is still under review.
The administration is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on whether the booster would apply to individuals six or eight months after completing their vaccine treatment.
If it’s six months, 2.4 million people would immediately become eligible for the booster, Murphy said. And, if so, “we’re going to have a very, very busy few weeks, let there be no doubt about it,” Murphy said.
Adding county and mega sites — there were six at the height of the initial vaccine drive — will help with the demand “so that anyone who is available to get the vaccine can get the vaccine,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “We would rather get it all done in a very quick period of time,” she added.
Murphy did not have details on what mega sites would reopen to support another vaccination effort. The sites in East Rutherford, Rockaway, Edison, Moorestown, Atlantic City and Sewell started shutting down in June after administering 2 million shots. Murphy predicted the reestablished mega sites would be needed for about two or three months.
New Jersey has already administered about 36,534 booster shots to people who are immunocompromised, but “we believe that’s too low,” Persichilli said.
Vaccination rates have slowed in recent weeks in New Jersey. Holdouts either are “rejecting the science and the data” or have a “legitimate” reason, such as working several jobs, not speaking English or thinking it costs money, he said. But, Murphy said, the vaccines are “overwhelmingly” powerful, and he pointed to state data to prove it.
As of Aug. 15, fully vaccinated residents in New Jersey represented just 12,242, or 0.24%, of all the positive cases; and just 68 of all the deaths, about 0.001%.