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All children aged 5 to 11 are eligible for COVID boosters. Here's what you need to know

Child wearing mask getting vaccine

Cooper Brown, 8, was among the first of his age group in the Berkshires to receive the COVID-19 vaccine last fall. Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to get a booster dose.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to children 5 to 11 years old — in addition to everyone above that age group.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on the decision unveiled last week:

Q Why did the CDC expand eligibility?

A Since the pandemic began, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 through 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 15,000 have been hospitalized and over 180 have died. As cases increase across the country, a booster dose will safely help restore and enhance protection against severe disease.

Q When should youngsters 5 to 11 get their first Pfizer booster shot?

A Five months after their second initial vaccination shot.

Q Where can you go to get them and when?

A Berkshire Health Systems holds pediatric-specific vaccine clinics on the first Saturday of each month — the next one is June 4, from 8 a.m. to noon at the BHS Vaccine Center, 505 East St. (St. Luke’s Square), next to BHS Urgent Care. But anyone, including the 5-to-11 group, can make appointments through the hotline for the Pittsfield location, the North Adams center at 98 Church St. next to the library, or at Fairview Hospital, whenever vaccination clinics are held. CHP Great Barrington also offers vaccine clinics.

Most pharmacies are not offering pediatric boosters currently because they lack a supply of specific dosages for the 5- to 11-year old age group.

Q How do you sign up?

A Appointments for BHS clinics are required and can be made by calling the BHS hotline, 855-BMC-LINK, (262-5465). They can also be made through the Berkshire Patient Portal, available to all patients of Berkshire Health Systems, Dalton Medical Associates, Contemporary Rheumatology, and Suburban Internal Medicine.

Those who do not have an account can sign up by calling 413-447-2505 or e-mail berkshireportal@bhs1.org to request an account invitation. Information needed includes full name, date of birth, and the email address for the invitation. The Berkshire Patient Portal can be accessed on mobile devices by downloading the Meditech MHealth mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

CHP Great Barrington is also offering children’s vaccines and boosters for current patients only at their mobile health unit. Details and schedules at tinyurl.com/ye2a9m44. Appointments strongly encouraged at 413-528-0457.

Q If a child is just recovering from COVID, how long should one wait to get the shot?

A It is recommended that a child who has had COVID-19 finish their isolation and recovery before receiving the vaccine, but the CDC has not issued guidance on any waiting period for receiving the vaccine after recovery.

Sources: CDC; Michael Leary, media relations director, Berkshire Health Systems; CHP; Amy Hardt, lead nurse, Southern Berkshire Public Health Collaborative

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