As New Jersey families prepare to send their kids back to school this fall, full time in-person, state health officials are urging parents with children 12 years and older to get them a COVID vaccine now, so they’ll be fully vaccinated when classes start in September.

Dr. Meg Fisher, a pediatric infectious disease expert and a special advisor to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, said while several vaccines are required to attend school in the Garden State, the COVID vaccine is not one of them. But it is highly recommended.

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“Although we know that many children will not get very sick from COVID, we know that some children, particularly children with underlying health problems, are much more likely to get severely ill,” she said.

She said some kids are hospitalized, including in the ICU, and throughout the country more than 4,000 children have had multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is believed to be triggered by COVID.

“And that’s a very serious severe illness where children come in, in shock, they require intensive care,” she explained.

Fisher said more than 300 children have died from COVID related conditions in the United States.

She said another reason to get kids vaccinated for COVID whenever possible is because it’s important for kids to attend school in person.

“We don’t want there to be cases of COVID spread within school and then children having to quarantine and then be out of school because they’ve been exposed,” she said.

Fisher said another reason to get eligible children vaccinated ASAP is because they can play a vital role in stopping the delta variant from spreading, and helping the Garden State reach herd immunity, sometimes called community protection.

“We want to prevent those variants from happening, and the only way to do that is to stop the virus from replicating,” she said.

She also said when the CDC determines the COVID vaccine is safe for younger children, it’s important for them to be vaccinated as well.

To see which vaccines are required at what ages in New Jersey you can visit the state Health Department website.

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