Hogan calls in Md. National Guard to assist with COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said during his weekly coronavirus news conference that the National Guard will be reactivated to provide logistical support and any other necessary help as the state’s vaccine distribution plan gets underway.

The National Guard will install special field teams to help plan and lay out points of distribution. They will also assist mobile vaccination clinics in administrating the vaccine and help rapid response teams take care of health care facilities.

The number of National Guard troops helping during the distribution process was not released, but Hogan said the state will be calling up as many members as they need to help.

“We’re very fortunate to have these elite citizen soldiers and airmen to call on and once again, we’re going to be utilizing them as we launch what will be the largest and most important vaccination campaign in the history of our state and our nation,” Hogan said.

Maryland began giving its first doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine Monday at two Baltimore hospitals. With the National Guard providing assistance, Maryland hopes to have every hospital in the state receive its first set of doses over the next week.

Maryland was allocated 155,000 vaccine doses by the federal government for December, with those set to be given to health care workers, nursing homes residents and staff and first responders.

Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy secretary of the state’s Health Department, said that the state’s future vaccine allocation may increase over time as more treatments through Operation Warp Speed are approved. Once everyone in Phase 1A is vaccinated, the state can focus on other priorities.

After Phase 1A, people at risk of complications from COVID-19 disease are next before advancing to Phase 2, which is designated for critical essential workers. Chan said school staff, educators and childcare providers are listed as a priority group within the second phase.

“I want to emphasize that we are just at the beginning of our vaccine implementation plan,” Chan said. “And we will be rolling out more and more vaccine to our entire state, as the weeks go by.”

Hogan called the distribution of the vaccine “a turning point” in the country’s battle over the coronavirus. To ensure that all of those who need a vaccine during Phase 1A one, Hogan said he will wait and not “jump the line” in front of health care workers and those in nursing homes.

“Those are the ones that deserve it and need it first,” Hogan said. “But as soon as I become eligible, I’ll be doing it publicly. I’m sure so will the lieutenant governor and [the] First Lady and any of us that can help convince others that it’s going to be safe and important.”

Public outreach and information campaign

As part of the distribution plans, Maryland will ramp up its public outreach initiatives to ensure residents are properly informed and feel safe taking the vaccine once it is publicly available.

The Health Department plans to reach out to Maryland’s congressional delegation, leaders of the state’s general assembly, county leaders, community leaders and faith-based leadership to promote vaccine safety.

Chan spent time during the press conference explaining the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine, the first to receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine is 95% effective and was approved last week.

Meanwhile, Moderna, whose vaccine is currently being studied by an FDA advisory committee, is reported to have created a vaccine with 94% efficacy, Chan said. If the committee corroborates those findings, Chan said she anticipates it will receive an emergency use authorization by Friday, with distribution beginning next week.

Each person needs two doses of the vaccine. The second dose must be administered 21 days later and needs six weeks for a person to be fully immune from the coronavirus. Some experience soreness on the injection site, feel fatigued or develop a headache or mild fever.

Those symptoms, more common for people younger than 55, are typical when one is injected with a vaccine, Chan said.

“It shows that a person’s immune system is working,” Chan said.

People with anaphylactic reactions should not take the vaccine, she said, due to negative reactions during the trial phase. Those with other allergies should talk to their doctors before receiving the vaccine.

Information given by Chan, state officials or scientists are key to defeating the coronavirus, said Dr. David Marcozzi of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He asked people to read published science information and to not only trust social media posts.

“Simply stated, online misinformation is a threat to our health,” Marcozzi said. “And it hinders our ability to end COVID-19 and reopen our economy. Please take time to get informed from reliable sources, ask experts and make your own decision about receiving the vaccine.”

More Korean testing kits

Maryland will receive an additional 1 million tests at no cost, Hogan said, as part of a new partnership between the South Korean company LabGenomics and Frederick County-based CIAN Diagnostic.

The state received 500,000 testing kits from South Korea in May at the height of the pandemic. Despite recent pushback on the effectiveness of the kits, Hogan said Maryland residents “owe a profound debt of gratitude” to South Korea for its help.

“We use them every single day at our community-based testing sites as well as for our nursing homes, congregate-care settings, clusters, outbreaks and hotspots all across the state,” Hogan said.

Hogan also announced that Maryland will provide D.C. coronavirus vaccines for its residents who work as front line workers in the city.

While the governor did not provide a number of how many vaccines would be given, he will meet with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday to discuss a “regional approach” to COVID-19 going forward.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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