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New Jersey Gov. Murphy defends eligibility criteria

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New Jersey 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 supplies 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?” said Murphy, a first-time Democratic governor running for re-election in November.

The second group includes New Jersey residents aged 65 and over, as well as those aged 16 to 64 with a qualifying medical condition listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease. The CDC list also includes 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 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.”

Teachers as a group are “in a circle on deck,” Murphy said. “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 available.

“You have a huge imbalance between supply and demand,” he said. But he added, “The Biden team [is] I am confident they will deliver. It won’t be overnight, but we will get this. “

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Robert Dunfee