Some New Jersey parents are scrambling to get their kids booster shots after the state Health Department updated its quarantine protocols for students ages 12 and older.

The new rule, which went into effect Feb. 1, states any student 12 or older who is eligible for a vaccine booster must have received the booster shot in order to avoid quarantine if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID within five days of them showing symptoms, or if they were asymptomatic on the day they were tested.

If kids are fully vaccinated and are eligible for a booster but have not received one, if they’re exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus they’re required to quarantine for five days.

Children ages 12 and up who are fully vaccinated but not yet eligible for a booster (five months after their second shot) do not need to quarantine if they were in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID.

The idea behind the new regulation

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the new protocol was established after an updated quarantine recommendation was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, “so we wanted to update all of our guidance to be aligned with CDC.”

She said the CDC guidance states “you should be up to date with your vaccines, and up to date is not only the primary series, it’s also the booster.”

Booster shots are lagging

Persichilli said “60.1% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have received their primary series and that drops to 20.6% for those that have been boosted.”

She said vaccines and boosters are the most effective mechanism we have to keep kids safe from omicron and other variants, and the objective is "we get enough people vaccinated and boosted so that surges like we just saw, variants and mutations don’t have an opportunity to take hold.”

She said we know immunity from vaccines can wane over time so parents need to remember “the immunity that you want your child to have to protect them can be given by boosters.”

A reminder to parents

She pointed out most children do not become seriously ill from COVID but there have been 12 pediatric deaths in Jersey from the virus since the start of the pandemic, and 175 kids have come down with Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome after getting COVID, including some who were hospitalized with serious illness.

Her advice to parents is “go to people that you trust, seek information, and then make the best decision for your child.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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