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State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon (R-Little Silver). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

O’Scanlon: Teachers should get vaccine priority in next phase

By Nikita Biryukov, February 25 2021 12:46 pm

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) urged Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to prioritize inoculating teachers when the state moves into its next phase of vaccine deliveries.

“It is imperative that we put politics aside and do all we can to eliminate any hurdles to getting our kids back in school,” he said. “Although science says vaccination isn’t essential for teachers to safely get back in classrooms with our students, getting teachers vaccinated will give them both a health, and comfort level boost and remove the issue from the debate surrounding reopening schools.”

Currently, the state is prioritizing vaccines for health care workers, first responders, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The senator’s call comes as Republicans in the state increasingly turn their attention to schooling, which has for months been mixed between in-person instruction and virtual schooling that advocates fear is dampening children’s academic advancement.

Most of the state’s school districts on a hybrid basis, though relatively small numbers are conducting all classes in-person or through teleconference programs like Zoom.

O’Scanlon said the state should prioritize teachers as its supply of vaccines continues to grow.

“First, the Governor must expand eligibility to teachers. Supply is expected to increase steadily and substantially over the next several weeks so this should happen as soon as possible. Second, we must work together to formulate a system that can implement an orderly teachers’ vaccination program,” he said. “At this point, we should have learned enough from mistakes made at the beginning of our vaccination process and be able to formulate an effective system.”

Vaccine supply has emerged as a major bottleneck, and though production has ramped up in past months, and though it is expected to continue growing, O’Scanlon stressed that groups already prioritized for vaccination shouldn’t be pushed aside for teachers.

“I should dispel any fear that we will be displacing any other high priority communities. This will not happen. We are also working to facilitate our vulnerable seniors and others in securing vaccines,” O’Scanlon said. “And all of this is dependent on the expected significant ramp up in supply promised at the federal level.”

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