What a difference a state line makes.
In New York, schoolteachers, along with grocery store and public transit workers, are eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine, along with those 65 or older and health care workers.
In New Jersey, however, the most recent plan, set out by state officials last week, does not provide the vaccine for those front-line workers. Instead, it makes them available for people threatened by the virus because of underlying health conditions, including obesity and cigarette smoking.
Teach NJ, the Orthodox Union-led organization which lobbies on behalf of Jewish yeshivot and other private schools, thinks this gives New Jersey teachers a short shrift.
Last week, the organization wrote to New Jersey’s commissioners of health and education, arguing that “Prioritizing teachers and staff will ensure that schools can continue to remain open by allowing our educators to be vaccinated now.”
“We believe teaches are essential workers,” Dan Mitzner said. Mr. Mitzner is the director of state political affairs for Teach Coalition, an umbrella group that includes Teach NJ and other state organizations. “They’re classified that way in CDC guidelines. They have to be in school as long as they’re open. they’re exposed when they’re there they’re in danger of catching virus.”
New Jersey officials did not immediately reply to Teach NJ.
But Governor Phil Murphy defended his decision to prioritize those at most physical risk over frontline workers.
“What we need to end this divisive and unproductive debate is an increase in our vaccine supply, and for that we need a federal administration that will unleash the process to meet demand,” Murphy said,
“The vaccine supply is extremely limited and will be for some time,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said last week.
Ms. Persichilli said the state is now receiving around 106,000 doses a week, half from Pfizer and half from Moderna, the pharmaceutical companies that have had vaccines approved. But she said the state needs more than four times more doses each week to meet demand and reach immunization targets.