At the beginning of next week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children, ages 12 to 15.

Many New Jersey disease experts believe it’s an important step in the war against the coronavirus.

According to Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, a Rutgers University epidemiologist and professor at the Rutgers Medical School, studies indicate the vaccine is extremely safe and effective for kids. He said getting them vaccinated will enable schools to return to a normal schedule more quickly.

“As you can imagine it’s really hard to get 12 to 15 year olds to keep a mask on all the time,” he said. “And if they’re not keeping a mask on, then they’re at risk of acquiring infection or transmitting infection.”

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He noted in some school situations wearing a mask, even if it does fit properly, is extremely difficult or impractical, such as eating lunch or in gym class.

He pointed out another reason it’s important to start vaccinating children is the U.K variant, which is circulating widely across the country, seems to be more efficiently transmitted by children. The vaccine is effective at blocking infection from it.

He said the governor’s goal of getting 70% of the adult population vaccinated, about 4.7 million Garden State residents, is a good one but “the level of protection you need in the population is much higher, calculated by many people in the range of 80 to 90%.”

He said once the FDA approves vaccinations for children between 12 and 15, the process is expected to begin almost immediately.

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