NJ hospital requires booster shots for employees who have received J&J vaccine

The University Hospital, the state’s only public acute care facility, requires employees who have received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to receive a booster before Dec. 24.

According to spokesman Adam Dvorin, Newark Hospital is the first in the state to mandate a booster for some of its employees. It became the first New Jersey hospital to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all its employees in June. The requirement allowed exemptions based on medical or religious reasons.

“Data and analysis indicate that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may no longer provide a level of effectiveness that prevents COVID-19 infection in enough of our employees if exposed, impacting our ability to protect vulnerable people. patients and families safe,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of the University Hospital, in a statement announcing the mandate on Wednesday.

The requirement comes a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration approved booster shots for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and Moderna’s two-dose vaccine. A booster for those receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech injection was previously approved.

Federal agencies are recommending the booster for anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago. The recommended time frame is longer — six months — for those who have received Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

“In light of the CDC and FDA decision last week on Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters, we believe boosters are needed,” Elnahal said.

More than 93% of the university’s approximately 3,700 employees have met the hospital’s vaccine mandate, while most of the rest have been granted religious or medical exemptions. About 270 workers received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Dvorin said.

The announcement noted that University Hospital leadership “will continue to review data to determine whether additional mandates are needed for employees who have received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.”

New Jersey’s health commissioner Judith Persichilli supports booster shots for healthcare workers, she said in the statement.

“The CDC’s recommendations for booster doses will provide additional protection to all those who have completed their primary series and also provide vaccine choice for boosters,” Persichilli said. “Health workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 virus, and with the Delta variant remaining active, booster doses will help boost immunity, not only for the recipients, but further protect the healthcare community.”

In September, the University Hospital fired several employees for submitting fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards in response to demands that employees be vaccinated.

Before the hospital’s mandate, just over half of the staff had been vaccinated. The university also held a vaccine raffle to incentivize its employees, and four employees won $2,500 each.

Elnahal personally met employees who were hesitant or against the vaccine and managed to convince many of them to get the shot.

Occasionally he brings up the devastating impact the pandemic had on the hospital during last year’s peak, and how there was a period when a third of the nursing staff were absent at any time due to the coronavirus. US Army Reserve soldiers trained as health workers were assigned to the hospital, as well as other facilities around New Jersey.

In early August, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order requiring all employees in state and private healthcare facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly for the virus by Sept. 7.

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Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at: ELlorente@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente

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