Special to Iredell Free News

Children ages 5 to 11 years old can receive a COVID-19 booster five months after the date of their most recent Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“Summer brings vacations, play dates and family gatherings, and it’s important for everyone to stay up to date on their vaccines,” said N.C.  Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Children ages 5 to 11 can now have the extra protection of a booster dose, which significantly increases protection against serious illness, hospitalization, death and long-term complications from COVID-19.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that children ages 5 to 11 get boosted comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise again across North Carolina.

Long-term COVID-19 symptoms can include multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, which can cause inflammation in different parts of the body, as well as coughing, body aches, shortness of breath, headaches, brain fog, difficulty sleeping and more. It may also cause lasting damage to the heart, kidneys or other organs.

“Children are vulnerable to the virus and long-term complications just like everyone else,” said NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. “Cases that start with mild symptoms can progress quickly, and even mild cases can have symptoms that last for several weeks or months.”

During the recent Omicron surge, those who were boosted were seven times less likely to be hospitalized and 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated.

“Prevention is the best treatment to protect against COVID-19,” said Kinsley. “Make sure you and your entire family are up to date on your vaccines, including boosters when eligible.”

Booster shots are available anywhere COVID-19 vaccines are available and are free regardless of insurance or immigration status. The Pfizer booster is the only brand currently available to children ages 5 to 11. Call ahead to make sure the location you choose has the age-appropriate Pfizer vaccine available.

North Carolina’s actions are based on recommendations from the FDA, CDC and evaluation by NCDHHS. Read the CDC’s full statement here.

For more information about how vaccines for children work and where you can find a vaccine or booster appointment nearby, visit MySpot.nc.gov. The North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center can also help you make an appointment by calling 888-675-4567. The help center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.