Prince George’s County, Maryland, will “reset” all COVID-19 vaccination appointments scheduled for after Feb. 9, and require all applicants to preregister on the county’s website, officials said in a news conference Tuesday.
The move comes as many people from Montgomery and neighboring counties are crossing into Prince George’s to get their shots.
“We intend to make sure [vaccine distribution] is equitable,” Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter said, while County Executive Angela Alsobrooks added, “We want people who are living here and working here to get their vaccinations here.”
The policy only applies to the first doses of the two-dose vaccines; the county will honor the second-shot appointment of anyone who has already had a first dose.
The link to sign up is on the Prince George’s County vaccine site.
Both officials said that everyone should fill out the preregistration form, even if your phase isn’t due to be called yet, so that you can get information on when your place in the line comes up. (Alsobrooks also cautioned that Internet Explorer is not compatible with the state site.)
Carter estimated between 30% and 50% of those who have gotten vaccination doses in Prince George’s County don’t live in the county, though he was quick to add that some portion of that percentage included people who work in the county, including first responders.
Though some crossover is “unavoidable,” Carter said, registering on the site will “give us the information we need to … make sure people are in the proper categories.”
Alsobrooks and Carter also emphasized that the county would enter Phase 1c of vaccination appointments on Monday. That will include teachers, people ages 65 to 74, essential workers, transit workers and grocery store workers. Whereas there were about 25,000 people in Phase 1a and 95,000 in Phase 1b, there are about 150,000 residents in Phase 1c, Alsobrooks said.
‘Ravaging our community’
The promising vaccine news comes as coronavirus numbers continue to be in historically high ranges.
Over the past few months, Alsobrooks said, “COVID-19 numbers in Prince George’s County have increased greatly.” She added, “It is rampant … it’s spreading.”
The current numbers were 63,316 cases, with 6,479 current hospitalizations and a total of 1,144 deaths, Alsobrooks said.
Carter added that the positivity rate is over 10% — double the statewide target — while the infection rate is still over 1, and half the ICU beds in the county are taken by COVID-19 patients.
“COVID-19 is still ravaging our community,” Carter said.
Both he and Alsobrooks repeated the warnings to use “the weapons that we know stop the spread,” in the county executive’s words: mask wearing, keeping physical distance, and avoiding travel and unnecessary gatherings.
Both Alsobrooks and Carter have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Carter had his second dose Tuesday morning; Alsobrooks said she will get hers Tuesday afternoon.
They both said they were fine after the vaccine, with no side effects, and acknowledged the resistance to getting the vaccine in the county.
Prince George’s County, it was pointed out, had the smallest percentage of people vaccinated in the state, but Carter said that will change “rapidly,” adding, “You’re going to see us soar.”
Once more people know someone who has been immunized, the doctor said, more people will be willing to get the shot.
Alsobrooks said a new “mass vaccination” site would be opened in the southern section of the county as early as next week, and said the main site at the Sports and Learning Center would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday as emergency management officials and staff work on the inauguration.
Carter said that “the state has done a great job” of getting vaccines out to the local health authorities, but that uncertainty and short notice at the federal level had hampered the rollout: “Everybody’s excited about the new administration and the way they’re going to approach it,” he added.
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