Now is the time to mandate vaccines for N.J. teachers

August 10, 2021 7:06 am

“When we work together as regional partners to enact regional solutions, we’re far better off than when we go off on our own,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. (Photo by Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)

Gov. Phil Murphy, stop dithering and mandate vaccines for New Jersey’s public school teachers.

Time has likely already run out to have a fully vaccinated army of teachers by the first day of school. If an unvaccinated teacher receives their first shot of a two-shot vaccine today, they won’t be inoculated by the start of the school year.

The Murphy administration says the vaccination rate for children between 12 and 18 years old is low and the Delta variant of the virus is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Children under 12 cannot be vaccinated. And the rate of new vaccinations is slowing.

The COVID-19 situation is so dire, Murphy says, students must be masked when classrooms re-open next month.

So why the holdup on a vaccine mandate for the adults in those classrooms?

Murphy aides chafe at the suggestion that the New Jersey Education Association — the statewide teachers union and a stalwart supporter of Murphy — has enough influence to steer the administration on this and other school issues. But it’s hard to imagine Murphy coming out in favor of a teacher vaccine mandate until the NJEA supports the move, and so far it hasn’t.

There is some shift in union opinion. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, came out this week in favor of vaccine mandates, after saying just two weeks ago she did not think vaccines should be “coerced.” Weingarten’s sudden change of heart has not, as of yet, resulted in a similar change of heart at the National Education Association or the NJEA.

The NJEA told us it is awaiting guidance from Murphy’s administration. At Monday’s press briefing, Murphy said his administration is working on “something” and should wrap it up in the next two to three weeks.

The first day of school for many districts is four weeks from tomorrow. If the concerns here are the safety of staff and students, and not politics, then it is nonsensical to wait any longer to tell teachers they need to get vaccinated. Do it now.

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Terrence T. McDonald
Terrence T. McDonald

Editor Terrence T. McDonald is a native New Jerseyan who has worked for newspapers in the Garden State for more than 15 years. He has covered everything from Trenton politics to the smallest of municipal squabbles, exposing public corruption and general malfeasance at every level of government. Terrence won 23 New Jersey Press Association awards and two Tim O’Brien Awards for Investigative Journalism using the Open Public Records Act from the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. One politician forced to resign in disgrace because of Terrence’s reporting called him a "political poison pen journalist.”