As Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials expressed optimism the omicron COVID wave was on its way out, they warned of continued dangers and announced the deaths of four children due to coronavirus since Christmas.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the deaths included three infants. The other was under the age of 10.

Persichilli said there were no reports of significant underlying medical conditions, but did not provide any more details about the children or the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Murphy and Persichilli used the child deaths to continue to promote vaccinations and booster shots for COVID, and to do it for the children, saying, "we need to protect them as much as possible."

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Persichilli said we owe it to the children to get vaccinated, because kids younger than 5 are not eligible to get vaccinated themselves.

"They (children) should not be around unvaccinated, unboosted individuals," Persichilli said, "They need to be protected."

Despite the deaths highlighted by the Murphy administration, severe illness due to COVID is statistically rare in children. Death, without an underlying medical condition, is even more rare. However, children do seem to be effected by omicron to a larger degree than past COVID strains.

All children five and older are eligible for a COVID vaccination.

Clinical testing on children as young as 6 months old are continuing, but there have been delays.

Vaccine maker Pfizer reported in December that two doses of their COVID vaccine did not produce a robust immune response in kids as young as 2, and have expanded their trials to include a third dose for children as young as 6 months.

The expansion of the clinical trials to include a third dose of vaccine will delay study results.

COVID metrics continue to fall in New Jersey, with the rate of transmission now at .64, the lowest it has been in months.

Even with the encouraging numbers, Murphy kept up the drum beat of vaccinations and booster shots. He compared anyone refusing to get vaccinated to a person who would knowingly drive drunk.

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