Maryland is accelerating its vaccination rollout for those 16 and older.
Anyone 16 and older will be able to get a vaccine at any of the state’s mass vaccination sites starting Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news conference Monday.
And by next Monday, April 12, all providers in the state will be required to allow vaccines for all Marylanders who are 16 and older.
Those 16 or 17 years old will only be able to use clinics that are providing the Pfizer vaccine, as it is the only one that is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for ages 16 and older.
Appointments for individuals in Phase 1 or 2 will continue to be prioritized.
The expansion of eligibility is about a month ahead of President Joe Biden’s May 1 goal of opening up eligibility to all adults. Biden also set a goal to put the country on a path to get “closer to normal” by July 4.
Hogan said he does not have a percentage goal number of how many Marylanders will be vaccinated by the Fourth of July, but he would like to get as many as he can.
“It all depends on the supply. And now the federal government has gotten us an increase supply. They’re saying that’s going to continue,” he said.
The state’s mass vaccination sites can handle 100,000 shots per day, Hogan said, but there are not enough vaccines for that number of people.
No-appointment walk-up line launched, but best way to guarantee shot is to make an appointment
The first no-appointment-necessary walk-up line launched last Friday at the Eastern Shore in Salisbury, and on Tuesday, there will be one in the Hagerstown site and at the M&T Bank Stadium vaccination site next week, Hogan said.
“In addition, we will be adding no-appointment-necessary lines at each of the other new mass vax sites that we are opening,” Hogan said.
Three more mass vaccination sites are opening this week — the FEMA site at the Greenbelt Metro Station, one at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Baltimore County and one at the Montgomery College Germantown campus.
In the following weeks, mass vaccination sites are opening in Frederick, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties.
“We want to emphasize that the best way to guarantee a vaccine and to get through the sites faster is still to preregister and secure an appointment,” Hogan said.
In Maryland, 481 pharmacies are also providing vaccines with additional supplies from the federal government.
But even with the increase in eligibility, providers and vaccines, Hogan said it does not mean that you will get an appointment immediately.
“But with the supply of doses increasing over the next month or so, a vaccine should be available for everyone who wants one,” he said.
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‘We’re not in the red zone’
Hogan said the daily positivity rate, seven day positivity rate and case rate per 100,000 are slightly down; and the number of new cases dropped significantly Monday.
On Sunday, health officials in Maryland reported 1,669 new cases of the coronavirus, as well as eight more virus-related deaths — the highest number of daily coronavirus cases since Jan. 31, The Associated Press reported.
Despite setting a new daily record for COVID-19 vaccines administered — 78,000 shots on Saturday, according to The Baltimore Sun — the state has been seeing an uptick in new cases.
“Maryland is in better shape than the country and we’re not in the red zone. However, nearly all of the states to the north of us are, and we all know that the virus does not respect state borders,” Hogan said.
Dr. Ted Delbridge, the executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, said that people younger then 60 years old are comprising a higher proportion of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, while new cases of COVID-19 in people 60 years and older have dropped by 30%.
Those 60 and older also represent a lower proportion of hospitalized patients, Delbridge said.
Hogan said that’s because 76% of them have been vaccinated.
Delbridge also addressed some questions people have had about the vaccines, regarding efficacy, safety, side effects and whether they can wait it out.
“For months, even if you’re a lucky person, and you managed not to get so ill, the people closest to you, the ones you love and your friends, may not be so lucky when you pass the virus along to them. And every time the virus moves from one person to another, it is its chance to become a better virus, to be stronger, to make people more ill and to resist or avoid the treatments that currently exist,” Delbridge said.
Hogan said that some younger people sometimes felt that they were “bulletproof or they didn’t have to worry about it. But now, you know, we’re seeing that they really do need to worry about it.”
The best strategy to combat COVID-19 is through vaccination, Delbridge said.
“Baseball season is starting. I thought I would make a baseball analogy and those who follow the Orioles, the Nationals, or their other favorite team will understand. The best way to stop everyone from scoring is to get the batter out before he gets on base. No base runners means no runs can score. If COVID-19 can’t get on base, can’t go from one person to another because they’ve all been vaccinated, we win and the virus loses,” Delbridge said.