TRENTON, NJ -- The announcement by Governor Phil Murphy on Monday that teachers will now be prioritized to receive a COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinate is welcome news in the Hamilton and Robbinsville school districts. As of March 15, K-12 educators and school support staff will qualify for shots. In addition, the vaccination priority schedule was adjusted to include other essential workers.
The news comes days after a third -- one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) -- received emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Murphy called the vaccine a “game changer.” The New Jersey Health Department expects to receive over 73,000 shots of the J&J vaccine by mid-week but state officials said exactly how the state will allocate proper doses is still being worked out.
The Governor said he hopes schools will be fully in-person come September, but “at a minimum [fully] in a hybrid format.”
Robbinsville Township School Superintendent Brian Betze said that it is encouraging to see teachers on the vaccine priority list.
"We are working with our local health department to establish a vaccination site in our high school and encourage our teachers to take advantage of the new priority," said Betze.
On Monday, Robbinsville Township High School students returned to in-person classes five-days a week on an early dismissal schedule. Students in the middle and elementary schools are expected to similarly return on March 15.
Frank Gatto, president of the Hamilton Township Education Association, also said the announcement is great news and hopes that the increased vaccinations will help teachers and parents feel more comfortable with students returning to in-person learning.
"Mistakes were made in the beginning of the pandemic that we are paying for now. It is much harder to teach remotely than in a regular school setting," said Gatto who would like to see all teachers and school personnel get the vaccine. "We need to think 'we' and not 'me.' These vaccines will hopefully make teachers and parents feel more relaxes and more safe."
Additional changes in the vaccination priority list are as follows:
Beginning on March 15:
- Educators, including support staff, in pre-K through 12th grade settings
- Childcare workers in licensed and registered settings
- Public and local transportation workers, including bus, taxi, ride-share, and airport employees; NJ TRANSIT workers; and Motor Vehicle Commission staff
- Public safety workers who are not sworn law enforcement or fire professionals, including probation officers and fire safety inspectors
- Migrant farmworkers
- Members of tribal communities
- Individuals experiencing homelessness and those living in shelters, including domestic violence shelters
Starting March 29, frontline essential workers in the following categories are also eligible for vaccination:
- Food production, agriculture, and food distribution
- Eldercare and support
- Warehousing and logistics
- Social services support staff
- Elections personnel
- Medical supply chain
- Postal and shipping services
- Judicial system
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