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Tower Health opens vaccinations to the 6 months-to-5-year-old group

Tower Health is offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for patients ages 6 months through 5 years old by appointment at Tower Health Medical Group Pediatrics in Wyomissing and Reading Hospital Children’s Health Center.

The Food and Drug Administration recently provided an emergency-use authorization for the vaccine in that age group.

Parents and caregivers interested in scheduling appointments can do so by calling the office. Other Tower Health Medical Group offices will soon offer the vaccine, the health system said.

Children in that age group will receive three doses of the Pfizer vaccine at a lower dose than adults as well as children ages 5 to 11.

Children under the age of 5 receiving the vaccine will get three doses of 3 micrograms each, while children 5 to 11 receive two 10-microgram doses. The first two doses will be given 21 days apart, and the third dose at least two months after the second dose, Tower said.

Tower encourages community members to explore options for receiving the vaccine from other sources, including local pharmacies and community clinics, by texting a home ZIP code to 438829 or calling 1-800-232-0233.

The vaccination situation

Health officials have been sounding the alarm for weeks over a population that is seeing new COVID variants push cases up yet again, and hospitalizations and deaths at a consistently higher level.

In the past week, some health experts have accused the federal government of not sounding the trumpet loud enough, while the government has said that a virus-weary public simply doesn’t want to heed the call.

The vaccination statistics are abysmal across the nation, with most people appearing to have abandoned vaccines after becoming “fully vaccinated” months ago, disregarding boosters and pretty much taking their chances with getting the latest variant that’s going around.

The latest numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID dashboard for Berks County:

• 274: Residents getting “fully vaccinated” in the past week for a total of 250,502 over the entire 20-month episode of inoculation opportunities.

• 334: Residents getting either their first booster or a third full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 118,688.

• 637: Residents getting either a second booster or a fourth full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 21,426.

All of the categories had bigger increases than a week earlier.

Berks has a population of 429,000. The state and national figures are similarly low.

Health officials have said that the term “fully vaccinated” is nearly meaningless now that it has been many months since most in that category received the shots, and the protection wanes.

The variants

BA.5 is now in control in the Lower 48, with 65% of all cases, according to the latest information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The graphic on the CDC’s variant proportions webpage illustrates the rise and fall of all the variants that have made up the second omicron surge. BA.5 is called by some researchers the most catchable COVID yet.

In the mid-Atlantic, BA.5 has a smaller portion of cases, and the hearty BA.2.12.1 won’t fade away and is still responsible for 22.6%.

There are no new variants showing.

Case counts

Berks County remains a low-risk COVID county in the assessment of the CDC. It is again nearly encircled by counties that have been elevated to moderate risk.

They are Chester, Montgomery, Lehigh and Schuylkill. Lebanon and Lancaster remain low risk, as they have been the entire second omicron surge.

Pennsylvania, with only three rural counties at high risk, is faring very well compared to much of the rest of the nation.

For example, nearly all of New Jersey is high risk along with the entirety of New York City and Long Island. Most of Virginia and West Virginia are high risk as well, along with most of the South and California.

Berks was a plus 40 cases for the week in the bouncing ball that has become the weekly update of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard.

The positivity rate in Berks for the week was 16.1%, a figure that would have caused alarm among health officials in the pandemic phases of the disease. The case rate was 87 per 100,000 of the population.

Pennsylvania overall was a plus 2,155 cases for the week, a rate of 113 per 100,000 with a positivity rate of 15.3%.

The second omicron surge began in early May in Berks, across Pennsylvania and the nation. The case numbers peaked late that month in Berks and fell off but remain elevated at about 60% of the peak.

And, that’s ditto for hospitalizations and deaths. Health officials have urged the public to remain vigilant about COVID.

Other statistics for Berks from the state and the CDC:

• 22: Hospital admissions in the past week, flat from the previous week.

• 2,294: Tests recorded in the past week, up more than 400.

National look

Nationally, the seven-day average of cases has risen sharply in the past week to 126,023 from 106,021 in the latest CDC update.

It’s now a new peak for the second omicron surge.

The seven-day average first peaked in the second omicron surge at 110,666 on May 26. The average was briefly above 113,000 as July opened, but then it dipped ahead of the latest week.

The official case numbers are about a seventh of the peak of the initial omicron surge that started the year. Many people who had the original omicron have also been afflicted by one of the variants.

Health officials are concerned that an accurate picture of the spread isn’t available due to widespread at-home testing and no testing.

Free testing site

The state health department has expanded testing options at COVID community-based testing sites operated in partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, including the Berks site in Bern Township.

AMI is offering three forms of free testing: point-of-care tests where tests are performed and results are analyzed on-site; the distribution of at-home antigen testing; and continued administration of the nasal passage swab PCR testing.

The Bern Township site is at 2561 Bernville Road.

The site is expected to be open at least until Sept. 4, running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Officials said the Do Your Part Berks website remains a good source of information:

Source: Berkshire mont

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