As the number of COVID infections increases in New Jersey schools, state health officials are welcoming news the FDA is on the verge of approving a vaccine for kids as young as 5.

An FDA advisory panel has approved child-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine that is a third the size of the dose given to the adults and teens. The panel reviewed study data that shows the smaller dose is 91% effective in kids as young as 5.

The FDA is not bound by the committee's findings but has typically gone along with their recommendations in approving usage guidelines for COVID vaccines. Drug regulators are expected to give their approval to the regimen in a matter of days.

If approved on that schedule, children between the ages of 5 and 11 could begin receiving their COVID vaccinations as early as the end of next week.

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According to the state's COVID dashboard, there have been 126 cumulative outbreaks in New Jersey schools through the middle of October affecting over 600 students and staff members.

However, the actual number of infections and exposures is likely much higher due to the way the state has schools report on COVID infections. Any infection or transmission off school property is not included in the official numbers.

The state has changed the reporting guidelines to include all infections and transmissions, regardless of where they took place, in school reports going forward.

Governor Phil Murphy promised an aggressive campaign to vaccinate New Jersey's children as soon as the FDA gives the green light. "We will be ready as we have been at every step of the way in terms of the vaccinations,” Murphy said during last week's COVID briefing.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli noted the increase in COVID infections in school. "We want kids from 5 to 11 to get vaccinated, "Persichilli said, "That's the way we're going to keep kids in school and keep them safe and keep them able to play sports, gather with their friends in safe environments."

The plan is to make the vaccine available in multiple locations, including pediatricians' offices and possibly in the schools themselves.

Persichilli noted 57% of Jersey kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated, with efforts continuing to increase that number.

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