NJ union leader lauds expanded COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for teachers

But NJEA president Marie Blistan cautions of need for safety requirements when in-person education resumes

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to hundreds of thousands more residents starting in just two weeks. On March 15, teachers and education staff for pre-K through 12th grade can schedule a vaccination, along with other essential workers in child care, transportation, public safety and Motor Vehicle Commission staffers. Also eligible to sign up are tribal communities, homeless people and residents of shelters as well as migrant farm workers.

On March 29, the state will open eligibility for restaurant employees; food processing and distribution industries; grocery, warehouse and hospitality workers; remaining eldercare workers; and elections, clergy, postal, shipping and judicial system workers.

The fight to prioritize teacher eligibility has polarized school districts as they debate reopening for in-person learning, even resulting in lawsuits. Murphy said he fully expects students to be back to school in person this fall.

Marie Blistan, the head of the state’s largest teacher’s union — the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association — in an interview with Anchor Briana Vannozzi, said the eligibility is an important first step toward a return to in-person education but that would also entail adherence to all safety requirements.

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