[UPDATED] New Jersey to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine for Teachers by October 18

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

Photo: Ryan Schumacher | Follow South Jersey

Update 1:30 p.m. August 23: During his COVID-19 briefing, Governor Phil Murphy confirmed that all employees at pre-K through 12th grade schools are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18. Teachers, custodial staff, administrative staff, and employees who provide food at schools, among others.

“We do not believe that meeting this order will be especially hard to do. We have received multiple local reports that point to an overwhelming majority of our educational and classroom leaders having already taken their personal responsibility to their families, students, and colleagues seriously and gotten vaccinated,” Gov. Murphy said. “I thank them for continuing to be models for their community. As the school year rapidly approaches, we are continuing to do all we can to ensure as safe of a start as possible.”

Teachers who aren’t fully vaccinated against the pandemic by October 18 will be required to take at least one or two COVID-19 tests per week. The executive order Gov. Murphy is set to sign will apply to public and private schools.

Original Story: SOUTH JERSEY — On Thursday, a report from NJ.com said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is expected to require teachers in the state to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Murphy’s announcement regarding teachers’ COVID-19 vaccinations is “imminent,” according to the report.

If New Jersey does take this course of action, it would become the third state to require its teachers to be vaccinated against the virus — and the first to do so on the East coast of the country. California and Washington are both requiring its teachers to be vaccinated, but under slightly different circumstances. Californian teachers can choose to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and instead be subject to regularly-scheduled testing. Washington, meanwhile, instituted a stricter vaccine mandate, as getting inoculated against the pandemic is now a condition of employment.

It’s currently unclear whether or not which path New Jersey will take regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers. The state has, to date, only mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers and other employees in high-risk, congregate settings such as prisons. Those who fall under this mandate can opt out, but they’d be subject to multiple COVID-19 tests per week if they choose to.

As the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the United States, some state governments are feeling pressure to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for certain workforces — such as education. The pressure facing public education is mounting as schools prepare to reopen for the 2021-22 academic year, and some schools across the nation have already reopened. Some have even dealt with widespread COVID-19 outbreaks, including one school district in Florida where more than 5,000 students had to self-isolate. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned schools from requiring masks in his state this year.

At this time, children under the age of 12 aren’t eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those aged 12 and older can receive the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine model, but they can only do so with permission from their parents or guardians. New Jersey previously announced its intention to require mask-wearing for all students, faculty, and staff in schools this academic year.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at stopping the most serious side effects of the virus. Their impact, however, is waning slightly, so federal officials recommended those who were vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna models get a third booster shot eight months after receiving their second dose. U.S. officials said the current plan is to begin administering third doses on September 20, and this effort will begin with healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations, including the elderly.

This is a developing story and will be updated with further information.

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