Virtua Launches COVID-19 Booster Shots for Staff
Virtua frontline health workers are among the first in N.J. and Philadelphia region
to receive their third dose of the coronavirus vaccine
October 4, 2021 - Virtua Health is working to protect its staff and the community by providing COVID-19 booster shots to its workforce.
The Marlton, N.J.-based health system, South Jersey’s largest, has begun administering a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to as many as 14,000 colleagues.
“This booster dose is literally a ‘shot in the arm’ to increase the immunity of staff who received their first shots when they first became available,” said Dr. Reg Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Virtua Health. “These boosters will deliver an added layer of protection that will further safeguard our vital health care providers, as well as the patients and community we serve.”
Nurse Kit O’Neal was among the first to get a booster shot from Virtua.
"I am ecstatic to receive the booster,” said O'Neal, who is director of emergency services at Virtua Willingboro Hospital. “To be able to protect ourselves and our families against COVID moving forward, is nothing short of a gift.”
Virtua will offer booster-shot appointments to its staff in the order they received their initial vaccine series at Virtua’s staff vaccination site, until all eligible colleagues are offered the opportunity.
Virtua’s workforce began receiving their initial dose of COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020. Among the Virtua colleagues getting booster shots are those who have the greatest potential for job-related exposure to the coronavirus, including those who work in emergency medical services (e.g., paramedics and EMTs), emergency departments, and intensive care units.
Unvaccinated are at greatest risk
Dr. Blaber emphasized that it’s still critically important for people who are unvaccinated to get their first shots.
“While it’s wonderful for health care workers to receive this boost of protection, that is not the key to moving beyond the pandemic,” he stated. “It is far more important that those who have not yet been vaccinated get vaccinated – as they are completely vulnerable.”
Indeed, the majority of hospitalizations and deaths occur among unvaccinated individuals, Dr. Blaber noted. Plus, unvaccinated people can more easily spread the virus to others – including children who are too young to be vaccinated, as well as senior citizens and others with weakened immune systems.
Dr. Jubril Oyeyemi, Virtua’s medical director of community health, also received his booster shot at Virtua’s staff clinic – and highlighted the need for everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Not enough of us got vaccinated early enough to eradicate COVID, allowing variants to form,” said Dr. Oyeyemi. “The hope is that we all get vaccinated so that COVID-19 will [retreat] and more variants will not emerge.”
Where to get vaccinated
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine recommended for booster shots by the CDC to date. However, a third dose of the Moderna vaccine is approved for those who have a compromised immune system. This Moderna shot is not a “booster,” but rather an additional dose to help those individuals achieve maximum protection.
Virtua is currently unable to schedule vaccine boosters for the community. However, eligible community members can receive a third dose at more than 1,600 sites across New Jersey. To find a vaccination site and book an appointment, visit covid19.nj.gov/finder or call the state’s Vaccine Call Center at 1-855-568-0545.
To determine if you are eligible for a booster shot, please see the CDC’s recommendations.
To learn more about COVID-19 and Virtua’s COVID-19 resources and services, please visit https://www.virtua.org/services/covid19-updates.