Essex County opens vaccine appointments just for teachers
By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
Essex County is setting aside appointments for teachers and school support staff at its coronavirus vaccination sites next week — the latest effort to get more shots in the arms of educators.
The appointments will be open to staff working at public, private, charter and parochial schools in Essex County. Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, March 19, teachers and support staff who reside or work in the county can visit EssexCOVID.org to make an appointment for March 22 through March 26 in the evenings.
The county didn't say in an announcement of the availability how many teachers it expected to vaccinate in that time. It said future dates may be announced as needed.
For Montclair teachers, the availability complements another effort — a partnership among the township its schools and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center to vaccinate about 80 teachers a week.
Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced teachers and several other categories of workers would become eligible for vaccination on March 15. But after President Joe Biden called on states to provide at least one dose to every teacher and school staff member by the end of the month, New Jersey quickly shifted its plans, beginning to vaccinate teachers late last week.
Biden, on March 2, announced he would use “the full authority of the federal government” to support vaccination for teachers.
Biden has also said states should have enough supply to vaccinate all adults by May. Murphy has said so far, New Jersey has far more infrastructure and manpower to handle vaccinations than it has shots.
The New Jersey Education Association had been calling on the Murphy administration to make vaccinations available to teachers for months, but the issue has particular relevance in Montclair, where a dispute between the public school district and the Montclair Education Association kept schools from reopening to any in-person learning this winter. The MEA contended school buildings aren’t safe, and that the district hasn’t taken thorough enough precautions. In past statements, it noted teachers could become eligible for vaccinations soon.
The two sides announced a settlement this month in their court case over the matter — with an expected resumption of classes for elementary school students April 12.
For the county-run vaccinations, teachers and support staff members are required to bring their school district identification cards or badges with them.
“Receiving the COVID vaccination is the best weapon we have to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Vaccinating teachers and school support personnel is the best way for us to reopen our schools and restore in-person instruction for our children. We are pleased to offer these special and convenient times for school staff to receive their vaccinations,” county Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said.
Essex County operates five vaccination centers, including the one assigned for Montclair, at the former K-mart building in West Orange. There is no walk-up service.