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NJ working to create plans for coronavirus booster shots, funding for K-12 testing programs

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said more information regarding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster shots will come out as finalized recommendations are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. – Photo by Phil Murphy / Twitter

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to discuss details regarding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster shots, third vaccine doses and plans for K-12 testing programs for the upcoming school year.

He said the state continues to develop its plans for fully vaccinated, non-immunocompromised individuals to receive their COVID-19 booster shots and are awaiting further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to put these plans into action.

“We are learning from the research that while still robust, the level of protection offered by the initial two-shot regimen of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, slowly wanes,” Murphy said. “This booster gets us back to that 90-plus percent level of full protection."

He said beginning the week of Sept. 20, fully vaccinated individuals will become eligible to receive their booster shot. Though, specifically who will be eligible is not yet known as the state is awaiting the CDC’s final recommendations on whether individuals should wait six or eight months after their first dose to get the booster.

If the recommendation is six months rather than eight months, Murphy said the number of individuals eligible would be much larger and would have greater implications in terms of infrastructure and planning.

In regards to the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he said fully vaccinated individuals with immune system deficiencies have been eligible to receive their third shot since Aug. 14, and as of yesterday morning, a total of 41,872 third doses have been administered. He explained the importance of understanding the difference between this and the booster shot.

“Again, if you’re immunocompromised and are in need of your third shot your time to get in line is now,” Murphy said. “On the other hand, if you’re preparing to receive a booster shot … we’ll have more information regarding that, when you can get your next dose, as soon as we can.”

He also discussed the reopening of schools and the return of students and faculty to in-person instruction, highlighting the important role that masking will play in keeping everyone safe from COVID-19. Though, he said masking is just part of a layered approach to safety that is being put in place, with routine COVID-19 testing being another important step in this process.

“To better support districts adding testing to their toolkit, … (the Department of Health and Department of Education) will release details on the $267 million dollars we have set aside to support schools to implement K-12 screening and testing programs,” Murphy said.

He said districts will have the choice to use the funding for state-contracted vendors to provide testing services on-site or they can request an in-house testing program to be set up so long as it is consistent with the Department of Health’s guidelines.

“We strongly encourage districts to work with their local health department to develop a testing strategy and consider participating in this program,” Murphy said. “We further hope all parents and guardians ensure their child participates in testing when the opportunity arises.”

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