Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) received a grant from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) as part of the COVID-19 and Influenza Vaccine Uptake Initiative to support the school’s work in making it as easy as possible for older adults to get their updated vaccinations and protect their health.

NJMS will use the $714,636 grant to reach men and women 60 years of age or older in six key counties in New Jersey: Burlington, Camden, Essex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Passaic - with evidence-based, trusted information, and support getting to vaccine appointments. Outreach will focus on those segments with the lowest vaccination rates, with special attention to those living below the poverty line, to reach aging, diverse populations who are vaccine hesitant or unaware of how to acquire their vaccinations. Outreach will be through both print and digital media, as well as through community health workers who will directly educate persons and refer them to available COVID-19 and influenza vaccination services.

Today, nearly nine out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 are among people 65 and over, and

70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in older adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While lifesaving vaccines are available, research shows COVID-19 vaccine uptake has slowed among older adults. Thanks to this grant, NJMS will organize a robust vaccination program to address this challenge in six New Jersey counties and, through social and digital media, the rest of New Jersey as well.

“COVID-19 remains a major cause of death and serious illness, especially among older persons. Influenza continues to disproportionately affect older persons every year. Yet less than half of New Jersey’s over-65 population has received even a single dose of the bivalent COVID-19 booster, and less than three-fourths got a flu vaccine this past winter. Deployment of further revised new vaccines against COVID-19 has been called for by the World Health Organization to combat the latest viral variants. These are anticipated to be released sometime in the next year and will involve much work to educate the public and encourage new vaccinations. Our team has extensive experience in promoting COVID-19 vaccination through digital and social media and through direct community outreach. We welcome the opportunity that this grant is providing to us to build on our successes by promoting both COVID-19 and influenza vaccination to reduce the toll that these two diseases take on older persons throughout New Jersey,” said Professor Stanley H. Weiss, MD of the Department of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who is the Principal Investigator.

Dr. Weiss added, “key collaborators in this project include leaders from Kendrick & Company and three NJDOH-funded regional chronic disease coalitions, the Essex-Passaic Wellness Coalition, the Ocean Monmouth Health Alliance, and the Burlington Camden County Regional Chronic Disease Coalition, as well as Peter N. Wenger, MD and Florey Cruz-Cerpa.”