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by Judith Hruz
The State of Maryland is working with Montgomery County to open a mass vaccination site at Montgomery College in Germantown.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced during a March 23 press conference that Maryland will add six more mass vaccination sites to the five already in operation – and the sixth that opened on March 25 in Hagerstown – and one of those will be in Montgomery County.
Hogan said that site would open on April 5, but Montgomery County officials said they would open the site a week earlier with the limited supply of vaccinations it receives from the state.
On April 5, the state will bring in a much larger supply.
Hogan said he did not know an exact number of vaccines the state would be receiving from the federal government, but that it would be a “significant increase” over what it has been receiving.
Montgomery officials have long been asking the state to open a site in the county, which has the largest population in the state at close to 1.1 million residents.
“We would like to thank Gov. Larry Hogan and the State of Maryland for their partnership over the last few weeks as we worked to open a mass vaccination site at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College,” County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council said in a statement issued after the governor’s press conference. “With thousands of Montgomery County residents leaving the county and driving to other jurisdictions to get vaccinated, we are pleased to have a site that will provide better access for our residents and other Marylanders.
“We would also like to thank our partner Holy Cross Health for the time and expertise that they have put into planning for this new mass vaccination site,” the statement continued. “They have been pivotal to the process, and we look forward to continuing to work with them. We also are grateful for Montgomery College’s willingness to continually step up to serve our community.”
County officials added: “In addition, we would like to thank our state and federal delegations for their support and advocacy throughout this process. They understand how important this site is to the county and the state and they helped us amplify our message. Montgomery County is fortunate to have such engaged and influential legislators at both the state and federal levels. Their voices continue to make a difference.”
During his weekly media briefing the next day, Elrich again thanked the state, the state legislative delegation and the County Council, as well as all the private organizations who pitched in to make the mass vaccination site possible.
Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Dist. 14) agreed it was “a team effort.”
“This is what government should do,” he said, “work together on behalf of the people we represent.”
Zucker said being an elected official means “doing all you can to help people,” regardless of the politics.
More residents eligible, more programs available
Beginning on March 23, the state made groups in Phase 2 eligible in waves, based on risk factors, including age, essential occupations and underlying health conditions, before opening it up to the general population in Phase 3.
All Marylanders 16 and older will be eligible for vaccines by April 27, the governor has said.
Phase 2A: March 23 — Eligibility opened for all Marylanders age 60 and older. According to Maryland Department of Health data, nearly 90 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are in the 60 and older age range. Pre-registration at mass vaccination sites is now open for Marylanders 60 and older at covidvax.maryland.gov.
Phase 2B: March 30 — Eligibility was expected to open for all Marylanders 16 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 illness. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, nearly 90 percent of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 have an underlying medical condition.
Phase 2C: April 13 — Eligibility will open for all Marylanders 55 and older, as well as essential workers in critical industries, including food services (such as restaurant workers), utilities, construction workers, transportation, financial services, IT and other infrastructure.
Phase 3: April 27 — Eligibility will open for all Marylanders 16 and older.
Residents currently eligible in Phase 1 will continue to be prioritized at the state’s mass vaccination sites, the governor reported.
In addition, the governor announced a series of new initiatives to ensure vaccine equity and expand the state’s distribution network:
Primary care practices — Primary care practices throughout Maryland are joining the state’s vaccination effort, administering vaccines directly to vulnerable populations they serve. To help achieve more equitable vaccine distribution, the first 37 practices were chosen for the program based on their connection to largely African American and Hispanic communities and areas with less geographic access to vaccination sites.
Throughout Phase 2, primary care practices will focus on vaccinating those with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 illness, the governor reported.
Hospital Community Vaccination Grant Program — The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission has established a Community Vaccination Grant Program to support hospital efforts to engage in community-based vaccination efforts. The program, made possible by the one-of-a-kind “Maryland Model” health care finance system, will provide $12 million for community-based vaccination initiatives led by hospitals, according to the state. Hospitals will work with trusted community partners, such as local health departments, non-profits, faith-based organizations and others, to increase Marylanders’ access to the COVID-19 vaccine especially in vulnerable, underserved and hard-to-reach areas, the governor said.
Vaccine Equity Task Force Mobile Clinics — The Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force, led by Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, will launch mobile clinics in hard-to-reach areas utilizing mobile units provided by the University of Maryland School of Nursing. These units will be deployed and staffed by the Maryland National Guard.
Five additional new sites
In addition to Montgomery County, Hogan announced that the state will partner with other local jurisdictions to add five mass vaccination sites, doubling the current number of mass vaccination sites in Maryland:
In early April, the Timonium Fairgrounds site in Baltimore County will be converted to a mass vaccination site.
In mid-April, mass vaccination sites will open in partnership with Frederick County and Anne Arundel County. Announcements will be made when dates and locations are finalized.
In late April, mass vaccination sites will open in partnership with Howard County and Harford County. Announcements will be made when dates and locations are finalized.
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