On Tuesday, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. The authorization comes as an Omicron wave sweeps the nation, including New Jersey. Shots could be available to kids later this week.

Under the authorization, the booster shot can be given at least five months after the completion of the initial vaccine series. The booster shot is said to provide more protection against COVID. Although COVID tends to be less severe in kids than in adults, the Omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with some being hospitalized and experiencing long-term side effects after mild cases.

The CDC is expected to issue an approval of the boosters Thursday. Meanwhile, the government is giving away a third round of free COVID-19 tests in an effort to stop the spread.

“With an uptick in infections and the potential for a surge in the fall, a booster shot for children ages 5 to 11 is an important layer of protection,” says Diego R. Hijano, MD, a top infectious disease specialist at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. “Vaccines save lives. Parents of eligible children, 5 months out from their last COVID vaccine shot, should make appointments for their child’s booster so they have full protection for the summer from severe illness and hospitalization.”

The new subvariant, BA.2.12.1, is highly contagious and is able to evade antibodies built up from vaccines or previous cases of COVID. Right now, NJ has “high” community levels of COVID in nine counties. At this level, the CDC recommends indoor masking in public spaces. New York City raised its COVID alert level to “high” on Tuesday. The five boroughs had been at “medium” level since May 2.

According to NBC News, a fair share of hospital admissions labeled as COVID-19 involve people who weren’t admitted for that reason in the first place. This means their diagnoses may never have been detected if they hadn’t sought treatment for another, unrelated cause. That is good news in terms of COVID severity.