CLARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A vaccination mandate went into effect Monday in New Jersey for educators and state workers.

CBS2’s Meg Baker spoke with parents and others about the mandate.

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Elementary school students in Clark ran outside to their parents after the bell rang Monday. All employees of New Jersey schools, both public and private, must now be fully vaccinated, or submit to weekly testing.

“I was feeling pretty safe to begin with, but I would prefer for them to be vaccinated,” said Christa Creaney of Clark.

“I think it’s a positive thing for everybody. It’s just really a public safety issue,” said Clark resident Christine Riolo.

“I’m vaccinated. I encourage everybody to get vaccinated, because it does help. But, again, I do believe it is their choice,” said parent Justine Fruzzetti.

COVID VACCINE

“Upwards 80% of educators nationwide are vaccinated, so we think ours is going to be along those lines. You know, maybe even a little higher, hopefully,” said Sean Spiller, president of the New Jersey Education Association. “We’ve got to make sure we are in safe spaces for students and our staff. Right from the start we’ve said we’re going to follow the science.”

Dr. Perry Halkitis with Rutgers School of Public Health saidthe mandate better protects vulnerable, unvaccinated young children against lifetime effects of the virus.

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“There is a study out of Israel that shows very clearly that long COVID in children is extremely problematic. So the best thing we can do for our children is to prevent them from getting COVID,” Halkitis said.

Districts are coordinating weekly testing for those who don’t get the shot.

All state employees must also be fully vaccinated. That’s more than 70,000 people.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“We still think it’s right to have the testing option. The testing piece, if you’re working from home, is not enforced until you come into the office. But we do expect folks to be vaccinated and when they come in, if they’re not vaccinated for whatever reason, then they are going to have to do the testing regime.” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Despite having a testing option, protestors stood outside the state house holding signs that read “My body, my choice.”

“I don’t believe that the government has a right to mandate any medical procedure on any person,” one woman said.

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Health experts stress vaccination is the best weapon we have. More than 27,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

CBSNewYork Team