TRENTON — Tens of thousands of private and public school employees and government workers in all state agencies will be required to get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face weekly COVID-19 testing requirements.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the mandate on Monday, noting that it was an extension of a policy already applied to healthcare and prison facilities.

The policy applies to part-time and full-time teachers and workers in K-12 public schools as well as private, parochial, charter and other alternative schools. It also applies to workers at state colleges and universties.

Part-time and full-time workers at state agencies also will fall under the mandate.

Workers who are not vaccinated by Oct. 18 will have to undergo testing "at least" once or twice a week, Murphy said.

Murphy countered arguments that children do not spread the coronavirus. He also pointed out that unvaccinated people make up 96% of current COVID-19 hospitalizations.

About 5.49 million people who live, work or study in New Jersey have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement came on the same day that the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for those 15 and older. The FDA continues its emergency authorization for children 12 to 14.

The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, has supported a vaccine mandate for school workers. The union also supported universal masking, which Murphy implemented for the new school year as a result in a rise in COVID-19 cases this summer.

"Public health experts agree on the importance of widespread vaccination. That is why we strongly agree that Gov. Murphy's executive order is appropriate and responsible under current conditions," the NJEA leadership said in a joint statement after Murphy's announcement.

Murphy's Republican opponent in November's gubernatorial election called the new policy "hypocritical."

Specifically, why is Governor Murphy willing to find common ground on a flexible vaccinate or test policy with the teacher's union, but not willing to do the same with parents who oppose his mask mandate for K-12 students?" Jack Ciattarelli said in a written statement, adding that the union contributed money to Murphy's campaign.

Ciattarelli also opposes the mask mandate for the new school year, arguing that "wearing masks for children is terrible for their social and emotional development" but that it should be a choice left to parents.

Flooding in Middlesex County, NJ on Aug. 23, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy toured devastating flooding in Monroe on Aug. 23. Heavy rains during weekend caused flooding of neighborhoods in Cranbury, Helmetta and Jamesburg in Middlesex County

How overtaxed NJ drivers MacGyver their cars

More From WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM