Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pledged Wednesday an “all hands on deck” effort to get every Marylander vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of a campaign called “No Arm Left Behind” that includes focusing on senior citizens who still haven’t received a shot, encouraging college students to get jabs and partnering with some of the state’s largest employers.
As it stands now, more than 82% of Marylanders over 65 have been vaccinated, according to state figures.
The new push includes “redoubling our efforts to reach that remaining 18% of Marylander seniors going county-by-county and ZIP code-by-ZIP code in an effort to get every senior vaccinated,” Hogan said during a news conference Wednesday.
The state is also reaching out directly to more than 70,000 of the state’s Medicaid recipients age 50 and older who have not yet received a vaccine. “We’re booking appointments for more of them every single day,” Hogan said.
The number of vaccine providers in the state — including pharmacies, hospitals, clinics stood up by the state’s Vaccine Equity Task Force and the mass vaccination sites — total more than 3,000 distribution points, Hogan said.
To ease access, no-appointment walk-up options are expanding at the state’s mass vaccination clinics starting Thursday, including at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital and the Greenbelt Metro station, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The state is also enhancing its vaccine support call center to provide direct assistance to people who are homebound or who need transportation or tech support to get vaccinated. The call center’s number is 1-855-MD-GOVAX and is available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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Encouraging college students to get jabs
Hogan said he is encouraging all students at Maryland colleges to get vaccinated and that the state health department was blocking off appointments specifically for university students at the state’s mass vaccination sites, including the Greenbelt site.
Hogan said the decision as to whether require vaccinations before students can return to campus should be left to each university or university system.
“I know a number of colleges across the country are mandating it and, you know, we would encourage them to do so, but that’s not an action that requires any executive order or any health department order from us,” Hogan said in response to a reporter’s question.
The state’s equity task force, led by Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead of the Maryland National Guard, is partnering with two historically black universities to launch vaccine clinics.
Bowie State University will host a joint town hall-vaccine clinic April 26 and Morgan State University will host a three-day walk-up clinic starting April 30, Birckhead said.
Hogan said the state would also partner with some of its largest employers — including Southwest Airlines, Exelon, Comcast and Amazon — to make sure their workforces get vaccinated.
Overall, Maryland has administered more than 4 million shots and more than 55% of adults in the state have been vaccinated.
“We’re actually ahead of where we thought the max capacity was, but we’re going to keep going. I’d love to see 100% of the people [vaccinated], but I don’t think anybody ever anticipated getting to that level,” Hogan said.
At some point, and perhaps soon, Hogan said he expects the state will see demand for the shots “start to slack off.”
“We want to keep them filled and keep moving at the same pace … but we’re having to do lots of creative things to get the same number of vaccines done every day.”
Hogan said, for example, that the state is starting to see more no-shows at its mass clinics, which he speculated was because there are so many additional options for getting shots, and people were finding opportunities even after booking appointments.
Return of J&J?
Earlier Wednesday, Maryland’s top health officials said the state’s vaccination plans will feel the effects of not having access to Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which were paused nationwide so the Food and Drug Administration could investigate a potential link to blood clots.
“Not having those 100,000 doses a week from Johnson & Johnson is going to slow us down,”
Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said Wednesday.
Schrader told the three-member Maryland Board of Public Works that his agency is eager to see what action officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take when they meet Friday.
“Obviously if they’re able to target uses for the Johnson & Johnson [vaccines] that would be terrific,” said Schrader.
Before the decision to pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the doses distributed in the U.S. were shipped from the Netherlands — not from the Baltimore Emergent Biosolutions plant, which the FDA recently inspected and found problems that led to contamination.
Hogan told reporters he had been informed by the White House on a call Tuesday that the FDA could make a decision on reinstating the use of J&J vaccines as early as Friday.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.