NJ still ending school mask mandate despite FDA delaying child vaccine
When New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week he was lifting the state school mask mandate effective March 7, he indicated one reason why was because the FDA would likely approve COVID vaccines in the next few weeks for kids between the ages of 6 months and 4 years old.
But last Friday the FDA postponed a decision on approving vaccines for very young kids, perhaps until late April or May, because immune response data for children between the ages of 2 to 4 is not yet conclusive and continues to be collected.
During a press briefing on Monday, when Gov. Phil Murphy was asked whether the delay in the approval process is giving him second thoughts about lifting the school mask mandate, he said it is not.
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Murphy said the decision to lift the mandate is based on several COVID metrics, including the “positivity rate, rate of transmission, case numbers, in school numbers, hospitalizations, you’ve got to make it based on the science, the data.”
He said while it’s true a vaccine won’t be approved for very young children in the next few weeks, “we are increasing our vaccinations with all the stakeholders, including kids.”
Children between the ages of 12 and 17, and more recently between 5 and 11 have gotten the green like from the FDA to get a COVID vaccine.
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The governor pointed out “omicron hit us first, with New York, it goes straight up like it’s going to the moon and then comes straight back down, we’re going to lift the mandate responsibly because the data says we can.”
He stressed the state mandate requiring face coverings in school is being lifted “but if either you as a district leader or you as a parent think that you want to keep your mask on or keep your district’s mask on you have every right to do that.”
Murphy acknowledges frustration with mandates
Murphy said he “feels the pain” of parents who had been looking forward to getting their young children vaccinated quickly, and also understands people are sick and tired of the pandemic and want to have all restrictions lifted.
“What’s that phrase? People are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. People have had it, so have I, but you can’t make a decision like the one we’re talking about (lifting the school mask mandate) based on that,” he said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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