TRENTON — No matter how the pandemic plays out in the Garden State, no resident should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when doses eventually reach New Jersey. That's the proposed law newly introduced by Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth.

"I am by no means anti-vaccine, I am anti-mandatory vaccine," Scharfenberger told Townsquare Media News.

Scharfenberger refers to his proposal as a "preemptive bill." He crafted it after hearing from constituents who are concerned about the possibility of a mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.

"This is really to codify the fact that this would be a personal choice, up to the individual," he said.

Both Gov. Phil Murphy and Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have noted over the past several weeks that there are no plans to make COVID-19 vaccination anything but voluntary. Murphy would not comment on Scharfenberger's bill specifically during a Wednesday afternoon news briefing but said he hopes that people "of their own free will will come to this."

Scharfenberger was also behind a bill that would block schools or government entities from requiring influenza vaccines among youth. It was a counter bill to legislation that would require annual flu vaccination as a condition of enrollment at schools and colleges. Neither measure moved in the Legislature.

According to NJ.com, New Jersey lawmakers have discussed the possibility of requiring COVID-19 vaccines among schoolchildren. State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, told NJ.com that there'd first need to be a safe and effective vaccine available for youth.

When asked about Vitale's comments, Murphy highlighted the fact that vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna are meant for non-pregnant adults.

"I'm personally of the opinion I'd like folks to be convinced that this is safe, efficacious, it works," Murphy said.

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