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Governor Murphy announced today that they are opening up the COVID vaccine eligibility to now include teachers and other essential workers. Starting March 15th, Pre-K to 12 educators and support staff will be eligible, along with child care workers (at registered and licensed facilities), transportation workers, other public safety workers, members of tribal communities, migrant farm workers and individual experiencing homelessness and those living in shelters.

Many teachers are back in the classroom for hybrid or full-time learning, and access to the vaccine will provide them with an extra layer of protection. This, along with recent advice from the CDC which says that schools can safely reopen with safety measures in place (like social distancing, masks and handwashing), will hopefully help students and teachers return to a more traditional in-person structure in the future in a safe and COVID-free way.

“What is being constructed between now and the 15th, is the exact how and where, and in some cases when is being worked out,” said Murphy during his daily press briefing. “As it pertains to educators, specifically, we will work Judy’s team [the Department of Health], the Department of Education, our partners at NJEA, school leaders, local education stakeholders and our sites on means of ensuring full access without interrupting the school day.”

Beginning Monday, March 29th,  remaining frontline essential workers will be able to make their vaccination appointments. These categories include those in food production and distribution, eldercare and support, warehousing and logistics, social services, elections personnel, hospitality, medical supply chain, postal and shipping services, clergy and judicial system employees.

“Given the expectations of increased weekly shipments of vaccines as the month progresses, and especially as we head into April, we are confident in announcing this broadening of eligibilities now, so that those in these categories can know when they can step up to the plate,” added Murphy.

Over 2 million doses have been given so far, with over 1.35 million first doses and more than 690,000 second doses. They are anticipating over 70,000 doses of the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be delivered later this week, and CVS and Rite Aid will receive and additional 22,500 doses.

Murphy also had some advice to help ease the long lines, particularly at the vaccine megasites that are across the state, residents must have an appointment before arriving (there are no walk-up appointments available at any of the megasites). Those that do have appointments, should not arrive too much in advance of their scheduled time. “Each megasite is properly stocked daily to administer to every person that has an appointment for that day,” said Murphy. “There is absolutely no reason for folks with an appointment say at 2 o’clock to fear that a megasite is going to run out before their appointment. There is no need for anyone to be arriving hours before their appointment and waiting online. We ask everyone to please arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. Simply put: If you have an appointment, you have a vaccine.”

And if you’ve been trying to help get your parents or grandparents appointments, the state is working to help those, particularly those without internet or email access. “For all residents who are 75 and over, we are giving a little bit of an extra push here,” said Murphy. “We are both actively conducting outreach over the phone and scheduling appointments for these residents to ensure greater direct access and increasing allocations to megasites specifically for the seniors among other actions. We know that residents in this age group are among our most vulnerable residents.”