Governor Phil Murphy says the number of breakthrough infections continues to rise in New Jersey as the state remains "under assault" from the COVID Delta variant.

Almost 5.8 million people who live, work or go to school in New Jersey are considered fully vaccinated with the two-dose regimen of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot dose of the Johnson and Johnson drug.

Of that number, state health officials report 22,226 people have tested positive for the virus and 457 have needed hospitalizations. 111 have died.

Murphy says while the number of breakthrough infections has been rising, the vaccines are still the best defense, even against the highly contagious Delta variant. "Given the enormous increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths we have recorded," Murphy said at Monday's COVID briefing, "The fact that these changes have been slight, speaks all the more to the power of the vaccines."

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The majority of those hospitalized for COVID in New Jersey are unvaccinated, according to state health officials. Most of those who are vaccinated, Murphy claims, never suffer severe illness. "As we dig deeper," Murphy claims, "We continue to see the real power of these vaccines in keeping people out of the hospital, or worse, the morgue."

Murphy has been one of the strongest advocates for vaccination among the nation's governors. He has pushed New Jersey into one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation. Although every county in the state is listed as having a high transmission rate, we are not seeing the severe surge in cases being experienced in states like Florida where the governor has pushed back at mandatory vaccination mandates.

The rise in breakthrough infections has added a sense of urgency in the Murphy administration to get rolling with a booster shot program. Federal officials have yet to give their formal approval, but that could come later this week.

For now, the boosters would only be available to those age 65 and older or with underlying medical conditions. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli says as many as 1.1 million New Jerseyans could be eligible.

Just how or where the booster shots would be available is not yet clear, although health officials say they are making final preparations and at least some of the state's former mega-sites could be reopened to deliver the additional doses.

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