Here’s what you need to know about the Covid vaccine & booster shot in Ocean County
There remains some confusion over getting an additional (or 3rd dose) of the Covid vaccine, from either Moderna or Pfizer, and getting a booster shot.
There also remains a plea from health officials to get vaccinated and addressing any questions with doing so with your primary care physician.
In Ocean County, almost half of the nearly 619,000 residents have been vaccinated as of Thursday.
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In an effort to try and alleviate any concerns, educate and inform what's going on with the vaccines right now, generally speaking and in Ocean County, Dan Regenye, the Ocean County Public Health Coordinator is serving up the facts.
What is the difference between the additional dose of the Covid vaccine and a Booster Shot?
When state guidance comes in and the booster shot is able to be offered, it'll only be offered to a certain group of people.
"Once we get to the point where we're offering the booster shot, which is anybody who is not immune compromised, and the booster shot would then be authorized. We're still waiting for that authorization from the state health department and the CDC," Regenye said.
If you are immune compromised and want to get an additional/3rd shot, you can do so now at any of the sites in Ocean County.
"But the 3rd additional shot is different than the booster shot. The 3rd additional shot is for anybody who is immune compromised and they received the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine at least 28-days ago, their 2nd shot," Regenye said. "For the booster shot, we're still waiting on the guidance from the state but right now they're looking at a 6-8 month window after your 2nd shot of Moderna or Pfizer. Once we get the green light for that, we will be able to accommodate the residents interested in receiving their booster shot."
Regenye also said that anyone who is immune compromised does not need a doctor script or documentation to get the shot, you'll still need to go through the post shot waiting period though.
As for differences between the Covid vaccine 3rd shot vs. the Booster Shot, there's enough to warrant waiting.
"It is the exact same vaccine but the immune compromised are the folks who are at highest risk for having the most likely negative outcome if they were infected with Covid," Regenye said. "These are the individuals who would have the sever illness...could be hospitalized, they could be in ICU, on a ventilator or even up to mortality and dying from infection due to Covid."
Where can Ocean County residents go to get the additional dose or booster shot?
Whether you're going for your 1st or 2nd dose of the vaccine or are seeking the 3rd, there are places to go, several, in Ocean County at the moment with more coming in the weeks ahead with a community approach.
The Ocean County Health Department has begun providing vaccines again at the RWJ-Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River and have been working with the county and VNA to open up an additional site for the vaccine at the Manchester garage for seniors and the western Ocean County residents including towns like Manchester, Jackson and New Egypt so you don't have to travel as far.
"That is going to be operating on Monday's and Friday's from 9-3 at the Ocean County Manchester Garage," Regenye said.
The Ocean County Health Department will open up a 3rd fixed facility site, Regenye said, within the next week or two at Southern Regional Middle School, which is where they were administering vaccines earlier this year, "to be able to offer the vaccine to anyone in the southern part of the county that was wishing to be vaccinated."
There is also the homebound program still available in Ocean County for those wishing to get vaccinated but for health reasons or otherwise can't leave their home.
To get on the list for the homebound program, you can call the OCHD at 732-341-9700.
"That vaccination is also available for anyone else in that home, any caregivers that are around the individual who is homebound -- any of them can get the vaccination at that time as well," Regenye said.
The Ocean County College Drive-Thru site remains open as well.
How many Ocean County residents have been vaccinated? What are some of the concerns?
Ocean County is certainly a summer destination for both locals and tourists and it is within the realm of possibility that Covid cases may have traveled near and far, leading to a higher total of those infected recently and since the pandemic began.
However, there's been an increase, albeit a slow one of late, in Ocean County of those who are choosing to be vaccinated but OC is one of the least vaccinated counties in the state.
"We're very active in our vaccination coverage right now, we are one of the lower counties in the state of New Jersey -- we're probably, maybe one of the 4th or 5th lowest in terms of the number of people that have been vaccinated," Regenye said. "Right now, for Ocean County residents, we're close to 600,000 doses administered and remember that's two doses required for the Moderna and the Pfizer, so that's not 598,000 people who are fully vaccinated but rather doses administered. When you're looking at fully-vaccinated -- it's almost 296,000 residents of Ocean County (which includes Moderna, Pfizer or J&J)."
That's out of nearly 619,000 overall, which does include those under 12-years old who are not eligible yet to receive a vaccine as it has not been authorized for that age group.
There have been 335,000 residents who have received the 1st dose of the vaccine but not yet the 2nd dose.
"We do continue to make some progress," Regenye said.
Can someone get the vaccine and a flu shot at the same time?
Flu season is just about upon us again and alongside it remains the coronavirus spread.
If you are looking to get vaccinated from both the flu and coronavirus, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in Ocean County.
"We're going to be setting up 40-45 flu vaccination sites throughout the county in most of the municipalities," Regenye said. "We'll be offering those at different days of the week, daytime, evening, weekends to accommodate all of the residents. At those seasonal flu vaccination clinics, we will be offering the Covid vaccination as well."
You can get both vaccinations at the same time and day if you wish to do so.
"We do have permission from the State Health Department and the CDC to co-administer so if a resident wishes to be vaccinated with the seasonal flu and/or the Covid vaccination, they can do so at any of those multiple sites throughout the county," Regenye said.
How will the vaccine help protect you from Covid and Covid symptoms?
This is a way to help prevent serious illness and hospitalization and there continues to be challenges, concerns from health officials in getting the amount of people vaccinated up across the board.
"It is challenging on the public health side when there's a vaccine, that is effective, it's not going to prevent everybody from contracting Covid if they're exposed, but what we're seeing in our conversations with the hospitals and the general community is that if (you) get Covid and (residents) are fully vaccinated, their experience with it is much, much less severe," Regenye said. "The vast majority of our hospitalizations now are in an unvaccinated population, so I think that is the true evidence that we know that this vaccine is both safe and effective in trying to prevent the most severe cases and the ventilators, ICU and mortality as well."