Murphy: Over 18 and feeling at risk from COVID-19? You can get a booster shot

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    TRENTON  — Saying “Let’s get as many folks boosted before the holidays as we can,” Gov. Phil Murphy Monday said there is no need for individuals age 18 or older to “over-analyze” whether they are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

    The official federal and state guidance has been a recommendation of booster shots for anyone age 65 and over and six months beyond their Pfizer or Moderna second shots, or two months after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

    But the second half of the booster recommendation, anyone over 18 with a pre-existing medical condition or whose work life entails higher risk of exposure, is essentially a green light for such individuals to declare themselves eligible, the governor said Monday.

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    “Thanksgiving is bearing down on us … getting as many people boosted between now and the holidays is really important,” the governor said during his weekly coronavirus briefing, which was live-streamed on YouTube. “If in doubt [of personal need], get a booster.”

    When a reporter suggested that New Jersey seemed essentially to be joining California and other states in universal booster eligibility for anyone over 18, Gov. Murphy said he would not discourage anyone from “reading between the lines” to assume as much. 

    The governor said that 934,986 New Jerseyans had received COVID-19 booster doses as of this week. According to Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, that represents 24 percent of those eligible under the strictest reading of the CDC guidelines. But she also seemed to nudge anyone over 18 who feels the need to get a booster, to consider themselves eligible. 

    VACCINATION OF CHILDREN

    As of this week, 6,121,251 New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated, the governor said Monday. 

    In addition, 47,390 children ages 5 to 11 have also received a COVID vaccine dose, he said, noting that the number is five times what it was last week.

    “For parents, I would simply make the case that vaccinating your child is the surest way to help return them to their normal routines,” Gov. Murphy said. “The vaccines are safe and effective  …. with each child that gets vaccinated and enters a classroom with an educator who is also vaccinated and sits among peers who are also vaccinated, the closer we get to being able to lift the masking requirement in our schools.”

    The governor credited the continuing “multi-layer approach to safety in schools” for the relatively low incidence of in-school transmission of the virus, a total of 160 to date and only 12 during the week of Nov. 1, involving 54 students [out of a total of 735 to date] and 12 school staffers [out of a total of 125 to date]. 

    Those numbers are apart from any number tied to broader community spread, outside of schools, he said. “These track cases are directly tied and confirmed to in-school and in-class activities.” 

    The governor noted that New Jersey has more than 3,500 schools, serving 1.5 million students.

    Dr. Edward Lifshitz of the state health department said the number of COVID cases in school-age children remains relatively low compared to where it was a year ago

    Commissioner Perichilli said there were five new cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children during the past week, for a cumulative total of 141 such cases in New Jersey. 

    She added, “None of the children are currently hospitalized.” And Dr. Lifshitz said officials have as yet seen no reason to interpret that one-week number as anything but  “random variability.”

    WEEKLY NUMBERS UPDATE

    Positive COVID-19 tests during the week of Oct. 25-31 totalled 2,003, bringing the statewide total to 10,303. There were eight COVID-related hospitalizations during that week, bringing the statewide total to date to 744, just over one percent.

    “The continuing spread of the disease is overwhelmingly … among those who are unvaccinated,” Gov. Murphy said.

    So far during 2021, there have been 47,559 [0.82 percent] cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated individuals in New Jersey, the governor said. The number of those persons hospitalized was 1,027 [0.02 percent] and number who died was 279 [0.005 percent]

    “This again proves the ability of the vaccines to get you safe, he said, adding, “just to make another point about the power of the vaccines, one year ago yesterday, the total number hospitalized was nearly three times what you see here … and ventilator use is down by more than half.”