Today marks the one-year anniversary of University Hospital nurse Maritza Beniquez becoming the first person in New Jersey to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. At an event today at the Newark-based healthcare institution, Beniquez noted the occasion by saying, “This has been an incredible year full of love and laughter.”
Beniquez also knows there has been an uptick in COVID cases. It’s been primarily among the unvaccinated, she said, yet people who have gone through their complete vaccine regimens are also getting COVID. As vaccine efficacy wanes, she said it is “immensely important” for people to get their booster shots.
Her comments, the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 shot in the state, and the importance of booster vaccines marked another occasion today: Boost NJ Day.
According to Gov. Phil Murphy, there are more than 1,900 locations across the state where someone can get a COVID-19 booster shot. These sites, which can be found at www.COVID19.nj.gov/finder, are offering expanded walk-in availability and extended hours to increase accessibility to booster shots in recognition of Boost NJ Day.
“Today, of the more than 8.4 million New Jerseyans eligible for the vaccines, more than 7 million, or 84%, have gotten their first dose … with more than 6 million having completed their primary vaccination course, that is nearly 75% of those eligible,” Murphy said. “I don’t think any state in the nation can claim that [type of] success.”
However, of the 4.5 million state residents eligible for a booster, only 1.5 million have received one (37%).
Coupled with rising COVID cases, the state must do better in getting people to take a booster shot, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
“While we have come a long way in a year, this virus is unrelenting,” Persichelli said. “This is the most active adversary we have ever had to confront in our lifetime. With the Delta and new Omicron variants, our battle is beginning again.”
University Hospital President and CEO Dr. Shereef Elnahal added, “We are facing new unanticipated challenges with the Delta and Omicron variants. Half of our admissions for COVID-19 right now are patients who are fully vaccinated, but not yet boosted. So, we have a task ahead of us to communicate clearly to the community that boosting is necessary to keep folks safe.”
In addition to the Boost NJ Day announcement, today marked the opening of the state’s third COVID-19 megasite at the former Lord & Taylor department store at the Bridgewater Commons shopping mall in Somerset County.
The opening of the site “will help us get shots in arms,” Murphy said. “The data is showing the lessening of the power of the initial vaccinations, which is reopening the door to infections, but we can close the door once again with a booster,” Murphy said. “The booster is not a bonus, but a necessity.”
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