New Jersey expands COVID vaccine eligibility to those 55+ and more worker categories
This week Jersey City is dedicating their COVID vaccines to teachers and other staff in hopes of opening schools for in-person learning on April 22. NorthJersey.com
New Jersey will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those 55 to 64 years old, as well as anyone over 16 with developmental disabilities and thousands of more workers beginning April 5, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.
The sweeping move includes a number of new employment categories that will now become eligible. They include:
- Utilities, including electrical, natural gas delivery, nuclear, water supply, telephone, cable, cellular service workers
- Real estate, building, and home services. This includes plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians along with construction workers, code officials, property managers and maintenance workers
- Communications including IT workers, engineers, technicians and members of the press
- Laundry services, including workers in laundromats and dry cleaners
- Customer-facing financial institutions such as bank tellers and check cashing workers
- Sanitation, including workers providing disinfection and janitorial services for all essential facilities and modes of transportation; city sanitation workers; residential, commercial, and industrial solid and hazardous waste removal.
- Higher Education, including educators and support staff
- Librarians and support staff
While the allotment of vaccines from the federal stockpile has increased steadily, Murphy has said he expected a "quantum leap" in early April that will help meet the demand.
He also announced Friday that anyone 16 years or older will become eligible for a vaccine on May 1. Vaccines have not yet been approved for children.
"We want a date that everyone can look forward to," Murphy said Friday after touring a vaccination site at Kean University in Union County.
The move to open eligibility to all developmentally disabled people will especially help those who live at home and have caregivers attend to their needs, said the head of one of the state's largest advocacy groups.
"It's a huge step in making sure some of the most vulnerable in this state are protected," said Mercedes Witowsky, executive director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.
New Jersey had limited vaccine eligibility to those 65 years and older for more than two months even as neighboring states lowered their eligibility age.
New York began allowing those 50 years and older to get an appointment this week.
Connecticut allows those 45 years and older to get a vaccine. It will also open eligibility to everyone on April 5 when appointments become available to those 16 years and older.
New Jersey will receive almost a half-million COVID-19 vaccine doses next week — the most the state has received in a week as it begins to ramp up distribution to more than 600 sites.
While all states began the vaccine rollout by inoculating health care workers and nursing home residents first, New York and Connecticut started to open appointments to the elderly in January by staggering age groups, beginning with the most vulnerable — those 75 years and older.
Murphy instead opened eligibility on Jan. 14 to an estimated 4 million people in one day: those 65 years and older, those with underlying conditions, and smokers — a move that created an enormous logjam.
Seniors, who make up 80% of New Jersey's COVID death toll, were forced to compete with young, more tech-savvy residents for a limited supply of the world's most coveted product.
Murphy, 63, said he and his wife, Tammy, 55, will sign up for an appointment when they become eligible on April 5.
Almost 3.8 million doses have been administered in New Jersey since the rollout began in mid-December. About 1.4 million New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated.
Murphy's goal is to have 70% of the state's adult population — 4.7 million people — fully vaccinated by late spring or early summer.
On Monday, a number of worker categories will become eligible including those in the food industry, elder care, warehousing, postal, clergy, hospitality and the judicial system.
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.