New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that all school personnel from preschool to high school must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18, or be subjected to weekly testing. The same will go for all state employees and faculty and staff at state colleges and universities.
The executive order is similar to one announced earlier this month for state employees at health care and correctional facilities. It also comes just after the FDA gave full approval for Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine.
New Jersey teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated will be subject to weekly testing. Murphy’s executive order applies to both full- and part-time staff at all public, private, and parochial schools, as well as substitute teachers and contract workers.
“As we move forward over the coming weeks to implement this order, we expect that district leaders will work collaboratively and directly with local union leadership on smoothing out operational or other logistical aspects,” Murphy said, “especially, if there’s a need for larger scale testing of workers over the next couple of months.”
The governor also said the FDA’s decision did not influence his order. But he hopes more people will get vaccinated, citing that some residents expressed hesitation to ambassadors from the state Health Department about the vaccines being authorized only for emergency use instead of full approval.
“There’s a certain part of the population that had been holding off,” he said. “We hope that bumps up folks stepping up and getting vaccinated.”
Pfizer’s vaccine remains approved for emergency use for ages 12 to 15. It remains the only vaccine approved for any use for teens. Vaccines by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson remain under emergency use authorization.
This is Murphy’s latest move to make sure schools open on time for in-person learning with no virtual learning options available, except under special circumstances. He previously instituted a mask mandate for school buildings, citing the highly transmissible delta variant and that children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the latest Monmouth University poll, despite a “vocal minority” and a lawsuit fighting the mask mandate, Murphy’s decision is “decidedly” popular. Out of 810 registered voters polled, 67% approve of the mask mandate. But poll director Patrick Murray said parents have a different feeling when it comes to vaccine mandates for children.
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