As previously reported in the FORUM on October 6, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has designated funeral home personnel as among the first line of critical workers who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The New Jersey Department of Health has concurred and begun its initial planning.
The designation was a victory for the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association and other state and national funeral service associations, which had advocated for prioritizing funeral home staff for the vaccine.
To date, there is no globally approved COVID-19 vaccine or specific treatment available. However, in mid-November, both Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccine candidates were found to have met the statistical criteria specified in the study protocol to produce the desired result..
The Food and Drug Administration is now expected to issue an emergency use authorization of a coronavirus vaccine for Pfizer and Moderna, with New Jersey expecting 260,000 initial doses before the end of the year. Both vaccines will be administered in two doses, the second being given 21 to 28 days following the initial injection, based on the vaccine brand delivered.
The State of New Jersey is now planning for a large-scale roll-out and has set a target of 70 percent coverage of the eligible population for vaccination (4.8 million people) over the first six months of 2021. This percentage is extremely aggressive, given that the annual flu vaccination received by New Jersey citizens averages is just under 50 percent.
To understand and inform public expectations of COVID-19 vaccine risks, benefits and availability, the state has begun engaging with a range of stakeholders, including the NJSFDA.
Although hospitals and large medical facilities will be trained and permitted to administer the vaccine to its staff, the statewide NJSFDA voluntary vaccination rollout will be a coordinated effort executed locally, most likely through each county board of health.
Should your funeral home receive survey materials from local health officials, you are urged to quickly return the information requested as completely and honestly as possible to ensure that those funeral home staff members who desire the vaccine can receive it during the initial roll-out.
More vaccination planning information will be published for the membership on the FORUM COVID-19 Member Resources page as it becomes available.