The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, Judith Persichilli, RN, MSN, MA, held a briefing recently for those in the disability field, to announce New Jersey's plans for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two vaccines that are awaiting emergency use approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been developed by Pfizer and Moderna. The Advisory Panel to the FDA is meeting on Thursday, December 10th, to decide whether to recommend emergency authorization to start to distribute the Pfizer vaccine. If, as anticipated, the Pfizer vaccine receives emergency approval, it is expected that those vaccines will start to be distributed quickly. Moderna has also requested emergency authorization from the FDA, and the Advisory Panel meeting on that request will also be held in December.
Since vaccine distribution planning began, The Arc of New Jersey has advocated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who assist them, to receive access to the vaccine as soon as possible. In addition, we have communicated throughout the planning process with lawmakers and members of the Murphy Administration to ensure those we represent remain a top priority and that the needs of the community are kept at the forefront as plans are implemented.
It is expected that New Jersey will receive 76,000 doses of vaccine in the initial shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, but because two injections of the vaccine are required, only 38,000 people will be able to be vaccinated from the first batch. NJ DOH has developed a COVID-19 vaccination plan in three phases. Those in the Phase 1 vaccination category are the highest priority, and Phase 1 is divided into two groups, A and B. In Phase 1A, health care workers and residents of large long-term care facilities will receive the vaccine. Phase 1B will include individuals with I/DD and DSPs. How quickly individuals with I/DD in New Jersey will be vaccinated will depend on how many doses of the COVID vaccine are available.
Some participants in the vaccine trials reported mild to moderate side effects from the COVID vaccine, such as a sore arm, headache, muscle pain, etc. Reports indicate that, if side effects occurred, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Aleve or Tylenol was helpful in relieving those symptoms.
Legal guardian's permission
Everyone with I/DD who has a legal guardian and is living separately from that guardian will need to have written permission from the guardian before receiving the COVID vaccine. If appropriate, outreach should be started now to request permission from the legal guardian for the COVID vaccine.
Additional COVID-19 vaccination information from the NJ Department of Health (DOH)
The NJ DOH has disseminated a one-page "at a glance" summary of the state's plans for COVID-19 vaccination. Click here for summary. For further details, please click here to see the section of the DOH website devoted to the COVID vaccination plans.
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Director, Mainstreaming Medical Care
The Arc of New Jersey
985 Livingston Avenue
North Brunswick, NJ 08902
Direct line and fax: 732.246.2567