HVRSD seeks greater access to COVID-19 vaccines for teachers

coronavirus syringe

New Jersey educators who did not qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the current categories were in a holding pattern when Mercer County superintendents sent a recent letter advocating for educators to be placed highest priority after Phase 1A to Gov. Phil Murphy.

Those educators are still awaiting further information as to when they would be available to receive vaccines in the state’s vaccination rollout.

As of Feb. 8, Murphy said educators are on the on deck circle, but did not announce a date or anticipated timeframe.

“We are asking that they are the first ones after Phase 1A. To date, we have heard nothing,” said Hopewell Valley Regional Schools Superintendent Thomas Smith, who is also president of the Mercer County Association of School Administrators (MCASA). “There is a general sense of worry and confusion about access and information to the vaccine. Our staff has heard nothing.”

Smith added that he thinks access to the vaccine for teachers and staff would help school districts looking to improve in-person learning to more days a week or full five day programs.

“But it is important to note that we have a good number of families who have indicated that they aren’t comfortable returning until there is a vaccine. Even if we added more in-person days, we might not have the interest,” he said. “We learned this on the elementary level and our return to five days a week. We had less students return than expected.”

As of Feb. 8, Murphy stated that the trend is going steadily in the direction of in-person instruction, at least in some form.

“Which further supports our work toward making more educators eligible for vaccinations beyond those who are currently eligible either because of age or health conditions,” he said at his briefing on Feb. 8. “Remember, if you are an educator and you’re either 65 and older, or you’re under 65 but you’ve got a chronic condition, you’re already eligible as we sit here. You’ve been eligible for two or three weeks at this point, but we clearly want to get there. But we also don’t want to over promise and under deliver.”

Because of the COVID-19 vaccine shortage in New Jersey, vaccine clinics that have been operated by municipal health departments in Mercer County are temporarily halted for first doses. Municipal health departments across the county have been partnering with Mercer County Health Officers Association to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to those who currently qualify.

According to Hopewell Township, the state has informed local health departments that due to the current shortage of available vaccines they will no longer be able to supply vaccines to municipally-run clinics.

Hopewell Valley COVID-19 positive cases to date:

Hopewell Township: The township health department reported a total case count of 562 cases as of Feb. 1; 420 of the 562 cases were from November through Feb. 1, according to the township.

Pennington: As of Feb. 9, there have been 67 total cases since March 2020; 46 of the 67 cases occurred from November through February, according to the COVID-19 dashboard for Mercer County.

Hopewell Borough: As of Feb. 9, the borough has experienced 37 total cases since April; 33 confirmed cases of the 37 occurred from November through February, according to the COVID-19 dashboard for Mercer County.