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The Burlington County Board of County Commissioners is calling for the State of New Jersey to amend its vaccination plan to make teachers and other educators a higher priority for receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
New Jersey began vaccinating frontline health care workers, including EMS workers, and vulnerable seniors and staff at nursing homes last month as part of Phase 1A of its vaccination plan. Police, and firefighters are also getting vaccinations as part of that phase and Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that residents 65 or older and residents 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions are also now eligible.
Teachers and other school employees are not due to be vaccinated until Phase 1B, which also includes food service workers, daycare employees, public transit workers.
In a resolution approved unanimously Wednesday night, the Board of County Commissioners urged Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health to prioritize teachers and other school employees as part of the 1A Phase like they did police and firefighters. The Board cited the “critical role educators have in the development, maturation and education” of children and the importance of an “uninterrupted education” for their knowledge and social skills.
“We understand the need to prioritize who gets vaccines and when, but we believe teachers and other school employees should be among these first groups we give shots,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “Clearly our teachers are essential workers and the sooner they are vaccinated the more confident we’ll all feel about the safety of our schools.”
New Jersey has not yet announced a date when Phase 1B vaccinations will begin but said it could be several weeks, given that more than 650,000 people were estimated to be eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1A. Factors such as the availability of vaccine and public confidence will also be weighted, according to the Murphy administration.
Burlington County began vaccinating EMS workers and other frontline health care workers last month at the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center in Westampton and is now also vaccinating police and firefighters. Officials also expect a vaccination mega site at the Moorestown Mall will be ready to open soon.
The Mall site is intended to be a regional vaccination center and will be operated seven days a week through a partnership between Burlington County, Virtua Health and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.
To date, Burlington County has administered close to 14,000 doses of vaccine, the eighth highest total of New Jersey’s 21 counties.