New Jersey Gov. Murphy defends eligibility standards


New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday defended the state’s approval requirements for coronavirus vaccines, telling CNBC that priority must be given to people with pre-existing medical conditions, including smokers.

In an interview on Squawk Box, Murphy said the state is focused on using its available vaccine supply for two different groups. The first, he said, are those who “need to help fight the virus,” such as healthcare workers and first responders. The second are people who are at greater risk of serious illness or death if they contract Covid, he said.

“This is not speculation. This is based on the data, on the facts. Who got sick? Who was hospitalized? Who did we lose?” Murphy said.

The second group includes New Jersey residents aged 65 and over, and those aged 16 to 64 with a qualified medical condition that includes cancer, chronic kidney disease, various heart conditions, and smoking.

New Jersey teachers have not yet been admitted as a full group, but Murphy has come under increasing pressure to allow educators and school district staff to qualify for the vaccine. Advocates believe it is important that they receive the life-saving shot so that face-to-face classes can be held more safely.

“It is a wrong choice to compare smokers with others,” Murphy told CNBC. “Anyone under 65 who is the most vulnerable, including if you are a key worker or educator, is eligible now.”

The list of illnesses in New Jersey that will call someone into question for the vaccine closely follows the list of illnesses in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that increase a person’s risk of developing severe cases of Covid .

The teachers as a group are “in a circle on deck,” Murphy said, using the baseball phrase to describe how to stand next to the bat. “I hope we’ll get to the educators sooner rather than later.”

Some states, such as Maryland, Illinois, and Arizona, have upgraded teacher eligibility, according to EdWeek, a news organization dedicated to K-12 education.

New Jersey gave around 1.1 million doses of vaccine on Tuesday afternoon, according to the CDC. The US has given a total of 43.2 million doses, CDC data shows.

While Murphy expressed optimism about the Biden administration’s vaccination efforts, he said that there is still more demand for the shots in New Jersey than is currently available.

“You have a huge imbalance between supply and demand,” he said. But he added, “The Biden team is doing an exceptional job and I’m confident they will deliver the supplies. It won’t be overnight but we will get that.”