DEPTFORD — Educators and childcare workers in New Jersey have been added to the ranks of those immediately eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, as one of the state's mega-sites has a plan to cover the school staff in all the districts of one county within the next few weeks.

State health officials also have bumped up another round of higher risk conditions as becoming eligible for shots two weeks earlier than first announced.

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Gov. Phil Murphy and state health commissioner Judith Persichilli were on-hand Saturday at the mega-site in Gloucester County, as some teachers got the vaccine.

There are logistical challenges in getting teachers vaccinated, as they need to work around school day hours, Murphy noted outside the facility on the campus of Rowan College of South Jersey.

"We can't expect them to simply walk away from their students, mid lesson, for an appointment. It's going to require greater flexibility in scheduling and access, and that's what we're seeing here," he said, adding that there would be dedicated "lanes" at mega-sites as part of the new effort to get shots to educators and childcare staff and noting that age groups would be a factor in the rollout.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, U.S. Reps. Donald Norcross and Tom Malinowski and New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan also were in-attendance on Friday as some teachers received their first shots.

The mega-site would add the faculty and staff of all the school districts countywide to its ongoing vaccination schedule, starting on Monday, Sweeney said.

Under the plan, 4,600 educators and 22 other professionals across Gloucester County would be getting appointments for after school or weekend hours, at a rate of 100 shots on weekdays and up to 800 doses on weekends, he said, also noting that the site continued to be a model for other vaccination clinics.

A day earlier, Murphy was in Union City as the first Johnson and Johnson developed, one-shot Janssen vaccine doses were administered in the state.

People with another ten or so conditions recently highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also would become eligible for vaccination on March 15, instead of the end of March as previously announced.

Those conditions that might put a person at increased risk for severe illness from the virus are as follows:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Other categories still remain on the schedule Murphy recently shared, starting with the following as eligible on March 15:

  • Public and local transportation workers, including bus, taxi, ride-share (Uber, Lyft) and airport employees, NJ Transit workers and Motor Vehicle Commission staff
  • Public safety workers other than law enforcement/fire professionals, including probation officers and fire safety inspectors
  • Migrant farm workers
  • Members of tribal communities
  • Individuals who are homeless and those in shelters, including domestic violence shelters

Two weeks later, more frontline workers are set for official eligibility as of March 29:

  • Food production, agriculture, and food distribution
  • Eldercare and support
  • Warehousing and logistics
  • Social services support staff
  • Elections personnel
  • Hospitality
  • Medical supply chain
  • Postal and shipping services
  • Clergy
  • Judicial system

CVS and Rite Aid locations in-state already had expanded eligibility to school and childcare staff earlier in the week, as part of the federal pharmacy program, which receives its vaccine supply separately from the state.

As of Sunday, the state had seen 2.45 million doses of vaccine administered, including 1.62 million first doses and more than 833,000 second doses.

There also were 160 school outbreaks of coronavirus with 765 confirmed cases linked to those outbreaks as of Sunday. That's up from 142 outbreaks with 671 cases cumulatively reported statewide as of Feb. 10.

As of March 1, 533 schools around the state were operating on a hybrid schedule, while 142 schools remained all-remote and 110 schools were offering all in-person instruction, state education officials said.

Another 27 districts were operating as a "combination," such as varying from in-person instruction to all-remote from school to school.

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