Stanfield, Peters condemn NJ pushing back teachers in vaccine rollout

Public confusion and lack of priorities rankles lawmakers

TRENTON - Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield and Assemblyman Ryan Peters called for teachers to immediately be eligible for the Coronavirus vaccine and questioned the coordination of Governor Phil Murphy’s vaccine rollout.

As of Wednesday, the New Jersey Health Department opened vaccine eligibility to people 65 and older and a large group of people with preconditions, including smokers. One group that was bumped back on the list was educators.

“Let me just start by saying, I’d like everyone to get this vaccine and am hopeful for a day very soon where we can all gather, worry free, with no regulations. But while supply for the vaccination is limited, we have to have priorities. Teachers must be in the top priority level with healthcare workers, first responders and seniors,” Stanfield said.

“There may be nothing more important in our society than getting our children back in school and providing them the education they sorely need. Other than making sure our healthcare heroes can continue their fight safely, teachers need to be a top priority. That’s why it’s troubling and frustrating to see teachers being pushed back behind smokers,” she continued.

Along with eligibility issues, the state has seen widespread confusion on how to sign up for a vaccine even if you are eligible, something Peters said the New Jersey Health Department needs to get a better grasp on.

“We’ve had seniors calling our office throughout the day confused on how registration works and mentally frustrated about the hoops they have to jump through just to be put on a waiting list. They are provided a link that tells them when they're eligible, yet most don't understand that they still have to sign up for an appointment at specific locations. We’re trying to educate as many of them as possible that they still have to sign up for appointments at specific locations,” Peters said.

“This all has to be communicated better. This rollout has been messy from the start. When we have vaccine sites listed in our district on the state’s website that are telling people they didn’t even get the vaccine yet, that’s a sign of organizational failure,” he continued.