MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - A new mass vaccination center in Berks will start administering COVID-19 vaccines in one week on Monday, May 3, but people can start booking appointments Tuesday, April 27.

The Berks Cares Vaccine Center, located in North Reading Plaza at 5370 Allentown Pike, will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the first week of operation.

Vaccinations will be given by appointment only, which can be booked on the center's website or by calling 1-888-712-2772, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"We're going to do a soft, slow rollout," said Kevin Barnhardt, Berks County commissioner. "Get a couple hundred vaccines in a day and then ramp it up going forward to make sure we have all the logistics and bugs worked out."

He added, "Once we know the number of vaccines we have available for the following week, that's when they're ordered and then they're delivered and we'll know how many to schedule."

"We want to make sure we don't have lines of people waiting," Barnhardt said. "We want to get people in, get them out." 

The Berks Cares Vaccine Center is a public health collaborative with the Berks Community Health Center. 

Starting May 3, BARTA's bus routes 1 and 3 to North Reading Plaza will be free to all riders.

Officials say community partnerships like these help in the long run.

"This is not a sprint. This is a long haul," Barnhardt said. "There is already reporting that you may need a booster shot. We will be there, conceivably, through the fall and winter to make that happen as well."

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