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NEW JERSEY — Health care officials in a northern New Jersey county began offering COVID-19 booster shots to qualified residents on Saturday.

U.S. regulators on Thursday said transplant recipients, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems can get an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to better protect them as the delta variant continues to surge.

Importantly, the decision only applies to this high-risk group, about 3% of U.S. adults. It’s not an opening for booster doses for the general population.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said appointments for a third shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine were open at vaccination centers at Kmart in West Orange and Essex County College in Newark.

DiVincenzo said by the end of the day Saturday 355 patients received booster shots.

The booster shots are by appointment only. Appointments can be made at or by calling 973-877-8456.

“Getting vaccinated is the best choice we all can make to keep our families safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and we encourage everyone to get their shots,” DiVincenzo said in an emailed statement. “Essex County has been administering vaccines since December 2020 and we are prepared to administer the booster shots. Just like our original vaccination process, we will administer booster shots by appointment only and we are committed to making getting a booster shot as easy and efficient as possible.”

Officials extended hours at both booster shot locations to six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Kmart is located at 235 Prospect Ave. in West Orange and Essex County College is located at 177 West Market St. in Newark.