New Jersey state officials sought to reassure parents who are on the fence about children about to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Officials pushed back that children aged from 5 to 11 do not need to get vaccinated because of key health metrics trending in the right direction and concerns that the clinical trials were conducted quicker than other vaccines.
Gov. Phil Murphy warned Garden State residents not to be lulled into a false sense of security as just when officials believe they see an ending, a surge of new cases begins. Murphy and health officials have cautioned that cases could increase as the weather turns colder and forces people inside for activities as well as gatherings for the holiday season.
Murphy Would Vaccinate His Children
“This pandemic, everytime you think you got this thing licked, it comes back at you,” said Murphy at a press briefing Nov. 1. “I am hoping that those days are over. But just because the numbers are getting better, I would plead with people to not use that as the excuse not to get vaccinated, including for your children. We do not know the future here.”
To further the point for parents, the Governor said he and First Lady Tammy Murphy recently discussed the subject and stated “if our kids were still in that age range, we would absolutely get them vaccinated. Unquestionably. “
Vaccine Ready This Week?
The vaccine for the age 5-11 cohort is expected to be approved this week with New Jersey being ready to offer vaccinations the next day, according to New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli. There are 760,000 5- to 11-year-olds in the Garden State that will be eligible for the vaccine. The state has pre-ordered 205,000 of the pediatric Pfizer doses with designated sites receiving the vaccine to start immunizing children as soon as the approval is granted.
All 21 counties will have sites prepared to vaccinate children, made up of 65 primary care sites, 35 acute care hospital sites, 40 independent pharmacies, 27 FQHCs, eight chain pharmacies, seven local and county health department sites, six urgent care sites, and one megasite in South Jersey.
Addressing apprehension in regard to how quick the vaccine was approved, NJDOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz explained that the vaccine came about due to years of research in Messenger RNA (MRNA) as well as the volunteers who participated in the trial studies.
COVID Effects on Kids
“Yes the vaccine was developed quickly…but these are clearly safe vaccines,” said Lifshitz. “There is nothing to suggest that this is riskier than for any other age group.”
While noting that a silver lining of the pandemic is that children are relatively spared compared to adults and seniors, he points out that COVID-19 is still in the top ten causes of pediatric deaths.
“We do know that children develop long-term COVID and other syndromes for months or years that can cause them serious problems,” said Lifshitz. “Any risk from the vaccine is clearly lower than the virus itself.”
Help to Parents
Additionally, he argued for a practical reason: it lowers the chances of disrupting everyday life for parents.
“We know that kids are out (of school) on quarantine on a regular basis, we do what we can to protect against that,” Lifshitz explained. “One of the best things you can do is get your kid vaccinated because if they are exposed to somebody else that do not have to stay home and be quarantined. (As a parent) you do not have to worry about them not going to school, having to arrange for childcare or having to take time off from work to take care of them.”
Health officials urged parents to talk to their pediatrician about the vaccine as well when the vaccine is approved.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,500,302 in-state, plus an additional 479,067 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 12,979,369 as of Nov. 1. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,860,175 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 205,644 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,065,819.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 392,235 for Pfizer and 171,762 for Moderna. A total of 4,736 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 578,236 have received either a third or booster shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,392,345 doses (648,688 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,080,556 doses (508,367), Hudson 964,056 doses (458,221), Morris 7506,545 doses (349,880), Passaic 667,895 doses (316,179), Sussex 178,090 doses (84,624), and Warren 116,556 doses (55,000).
As of Nov. 1, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,042,969 with 686 total new PCR cases. There were 203 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 156,769. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,199,738.
As for those that have passed, the state reported six confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,164. The state listed probable deaths at 2,816, bringing the overall total to 27,980. State officials noted seven deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Nov. 1, Bergen had a total of 55 new confirmed cases and 26 new probable cases, Essex 51 new cases and 12 new probable case, Hudson 34 new cases and seven new probable cases, Morris 40 new confirmed cases and 15 new probable cases, Passaic 41 new cases and three new probable cases, Sussex 17 new cases and three new probable cases, and Warren 16 new cases and one new probable case.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,844, followed by Bergen at 2,687, Hudson with 2,167, Passaic at 1,808, Morris at 1,038, Sussex at 264, and Warren County at 229.
In regards to probable deaths reported Nov. 1, Essex has 310, Bergen has 309, Morris has 266, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 71 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,730,278 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Oct. 18, 42,358 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 911 COVID-related hospitalizations and 249 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Oct. 11-17, breakthroughs accounted for 19.2% of all new cases (2,199 of 11,450), 3.3% of new hospilizations (24 of 725), and two of the 123 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Nov. 1, it increased to 0.96 from 0.93 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Oct. 28 was 3.6%; by region, the rate was 3.0% in the North, 4.0% in the Central region and 4.5% in the South.
The state reported 712 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 247 in the North, 201 in the Central and 264 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 168 are in intensive care units and 92 on ventilators. A total of 73 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
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.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions as of Oct. 27, the state has tracked 137 school outbreaks and 715 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 11 outbreaks and 57 cases from the week previous. According to state officials, the cases account for 613 students and 102 teachers across 19 counties.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey as of Oct. 27, Passaic County has six confirmed outbreak with 87 cases, Bergen County has 11 confirmed outbreak with 53 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreak with 49 cases, Morris County has six confirmed outbreaks with 27 cases, Essex County has five confirmed outbreak with 20 cases and Hudson County has six confirmed outbreaks with 22 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 142 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,327 of the cases, broken down between 705 residents and 622 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,795 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 34,018 residents and 23,274 staff, for a total of 57,282.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,639 on Nov. 1. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,006 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.