New COVID vaccine tackles Omicron variant as new school year approaches

Aug 24, 2022, 2:25amUpdated 5h ago

By: News 12 Staff

A combo COVID-19 vaccine said to be designed to take on the latest versions of Omicron is expected to be rolled out in the next few weeks, just as kids are going back to school.

Students in Newark – the state’s largest school district – will be required to wear masks when school begins in September. This comes as cases of the virus are on the decline.

Some students who spoke with News 12 New Jersey say that they are not looking forward to wearing masks again.

“It’s annoying because I can’t breathe when I be wearing a mask,” says one Newark fourth grader.

He says that he is not worried about COVID any longer.

But health officials say that COVID-19 still poses a bit of a threat to the public.

“I know no one likes to talk about masks. People get very angry. But the reality is high-quality masks, those N95s and K95s, do work,” says Dr. Stephanie Silvera, public health professor at Montclair State University.

But most kids don’t wear those types of masks. Silvera says even surgical masks struggle to contain Omicron. But she says a tenant of public health is layered protection.

The new combo vaccine could play a role. It is said to be made for Omicron. But even as Omicron is already evolving, experts remain optimistic.

Parents, though, remain skeptical. Only 1% of 6-month- to 2-year-olds are fully vaccinated in New Jersey. It is about the same for 3- and 4-year-olds. Only 35% of 5- to 11-year-olds have gotten two doses. That number increases for teens.

“Parents were concerned about what is the long term, lasting impact and I don’t know that any health agency did a really good job of listening to those parents’ concerns and talking through them in a way they could easily understand,” says Silvera.

Parents are now hopeful that coronavirus won’t upend another school year.

There is currently no statewide mandate regarding masks in schools.