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by Judith Hruz
Patience is the key word as Montgomery County grapples with the continuing coronavirus pandemic, especially with a recent decrease in the amount of vaccines the county had expected to start receiving.
During the week of April 5 — the same week the state’s mass vaccination site opened at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College — the county learned the number of vaccines it would receive would be 33 percent fewer than it had anticipated receiving, said Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
The county does not know how long the number will stay lower than officials had hoped to receive. Officials generally do not learn until the weekend how many doses it will have the following week.
Stoddard said the county had been expecting a 33 percent increase in the number of vaccines it had been receiving from the state.
Health officials, however, are asking the community to pre-register for vaccines and get tested as often as necessary, as well as following the ongoing safety and health guidelines, in an effort to stem the increase in cases of COVID-19.
“If we can hold on just a little while longer we can get across the finish line where we don’t see a forth wave of cases,” said county health officer Dr. Travis Gayles.
County officials said they understand the desire to loosen guidelines and open up businesses and activities to more patrons and participants.
However, Gayles said, the county stands committed to keeping residents as safe as possible.
The tighter restrictions in the county have resulted in lower levels of community transmission than other jurisdictions, he said.
Montgomery officials are concerned about rapidly spreading variants of the original COVID-19.
Gov. Larry Hogan called the spread of variants a “race between variants and vaccines.”
Gayles also said there is some evidence that the coronavirus could result in neurological and mental health issues in the long term.
The governor announced April 1 that the state is opening pre-registration for its mass vaccination sites to everyone 16 and older, just two days after Maryland entered phase 2B of the vaccine rollout plan. In 2B, everyone 16 and older with underlying conditions is eligible for the vaccine.
More than 400,000 residents of Montgomery County are eligible but not vaccinated, Stoddard said.
But County Executive Marc Elrich reminds that residents should not expect to be vaccinated immediately.
“Don’t confuse eligibility with availability,” he said.
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