The New Jersey Department of Health is getting prepared to offer a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for highly vulnerable populations in the state.
The planning comes in response to the FDA and the CDC authorizing a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised on Aug. 13, including patients in active cancer treatment, those with uncontrolled HIV, organ or stem cell transplant recipients, and those taking medications that weaken their immune system such as chemotherapy or anti-rejection medication after a transplant.
“A third dose of this population is intended to ensure that they have enough protection against COVID because they may not build up the same level of immunity as other people,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Our vaccination sites were instructed to offer third doses to this population, and that proof of condition or a doctor’s note is not required.”
Persichilli warned the additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should be the same vaccine as the initial series. Since the booster was authorized, 19,111 individuals have received a 3rd dose in New Jersey as of Aug. 22.
The commissioner noted part of the rationale for boosters are several new CDC studies showing waning immunity over time. She cited a federal study of adults in New York state overall effectiveness against COVID-19 infections declined from 92% to about 80%, but they were still very effective against severe disease and death.
“We will have a network of vaccination sites sufficient to provide booster shots to all previously vaccinated New Jerseyans,” said Persichilli. “We are reaching out to our points of dispensing, and expect to have adequate locations in each county that can offer Pfizer and Moderna. If we determine more sites are needed, we will be prepared to open them up as well.”
Long-term Care Facilities Concerns
The approval for booster shots comes as the number of outbreaks in nursing homes are on the rise, which Persichilli described as “very concerning because we know that our immune systems weaken with age.” Currently in New Jersey, 90.3% of our residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities are vaccinated.
But the rate for long-term care and assisted living staffers is decidedly lower, at 74.2% as of Aug. 22. State officials mandate that workers be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face at least twice a week testing. The Biden Administration followed with a declaration that nursing homes should require their staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.
“We’ll be working with the owners and the managers (of long-term care facilities) to activate a portion of the federal program,” said Persichilli. “There will be a replication of the program but not as extensive as we initially had…we’ll also activate their independent pharmacies that they are in relationship with right now to develop their booster program.
“We will be prepared on Sept. 20 to activate long-term care as quickly as possible, if not before, given the fact that many individuals in long-term care could be considered immuno-compromised.”
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 126 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 736 of the cases, broken down between 391 residents and 345 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,624 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,204 residents and 22,584 staff, for a total of 55,788.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,455 on Aug. 26. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,897 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,005,193 in-state, plus an additional 398,783 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 11,403,976 as of Aug. 26. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,354,736 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 172,154 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,526,890.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,233,926 doses (604,872 fully vaccinated), Essex 940,472 doses (452,674), Hudson 858,064 doses (411,065), Morris 673,295 doses (329,257), Passaic 584,388 doses (281,471), Sussex 157,755 doses (78,046), and Warren 102,551 doses (50,307).
As of Aug. 26, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 943,594 with 1,726 total new PCR cases reported. There were 449 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 138,360. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,081,954.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 11 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,085. The state listed probable deaths at 2,722, bringing the overall total to 26,807. State officials noted 13 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Aug. 26, Bergen had a total of 147 new confirmed cases and 51 new probable cases, Essex 141 new cases and 12 new probable case, Hudson 91 new cases and 14 new probable cases, Morris 67 new confirmed cases and 28 new probable cases, Passaic 101 new cases and 22 new probable case, Sussex 34 new cases and five new probable cases, and Warren 19 new cases and four new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,760, followed by Bergen at 2,612, Hudson with 2,120, Passaic at 1,754, Morris at 987, Sussex at 245, and Warren County at 217.
In regards to probable deaths reported Aug. 23, Essex has 306, Bergen has 306, Morris has 261, Hudson has 219, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,116,596 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Aug. 9, 10,123 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 58 COVID-related hospitalizations and 50 COVID-related deaths.
In the last week, breakthrough cases accounted for 18.3% of all new cases (1,397 of 7,611), 1.8% of new hospilizations (25 of 608), and none of the 53 deaths—the third week in a row that no death from those fully vaccinated.
As for the rate of transmission reported Aug. 26, it declined to 1.17 from 1.19 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Aug. 21 was 6.5%; by region, the rate was 5.8% in the North, 7.0% in the Central region and 7.8% in the South.
The state reported 1,012 patients were hospitalized for a second day in a row. By region, there were 387 in the North, 304 in the Central and 321 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 202 are in intensive care units—reaching over 200 for the first time since May 15— and 91 on ventilators. A total of 136 patients were discharged.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
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