Hogan says Maryland is ready to deliver boosters to adults and vaccines to children

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state is ready to deliver COVID-19 booster shots to the nearly 1.4 million Marylanders who are eligible for one, and it is preparing Pfizer doses for the 515,000 children who could soon become eligible for their first vaccine.

“We have both the supply and capacity to provide a booster to anyone who needs one,” Hogan said during a news conference Monday.

He added that people can mix and match booster shots, per recent guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention that people can choose among the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, regardless of which one they originally received.

“This is a very important step, something that we’ve been pushing for and that state officials have been preparing for over the last several months,” Hogan said.

The governor said there is a new online portal where residents can find out if they’re eligible for boosters and where they can go to get one.

Hogan also said that Maryland will be ready to administer vaccines to the 515,000 Maryland children who would become immediately eligible for them if they receive emergency use authorization, which is expected.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss Pfizer-BioNTech’s request to allow their lower-dose coronavirus vaccine to be administered to 5- to 11-year-olds.

On Monday, Moderna also released interim data that its vaccine produces a strong immune response in children ages 6 to 11.

Hogan said he anticipates the CDC will approve the Pfizer vaccine for children as early as next week, noting that health officials in Maryland have started placing orders for an initial 180,000 Pfizer doses for children.

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He also touted Maryland’s COVID recovery, “which continues to outpace the rest of the nation.”

He said the state has administered more than 8.3 million vaccines and that 85.9% of Marylanders ages 12 and older have been vaccinated, including 98% of seniors.

In addition, hospitalizations are down 28% since Sept. 9 and down 68% from their peak, he said.

“From day one of the crisis, our focus has always been on preventing hospitalizations and deaths. And these vaccines have all proven to be extremely effective at this,” Hogan said. “Post-vaccination hospitalizations have occurred in just 0.055% of vaccinated Marylanders. And post-vaccinated deaths have occurred in just 0.007% of vaccinated Marylanders, which is an amazing success.”

But Hogan added that data have shown waning immunity over time, “beginning really after five or six months, especially for those who are immunocompromised or they have comorbidities.”

Since May, Hogan said the state has “gradually seen an increase in post-vaccination infections and deaths. The vast majority of these deaths are linked to underlying conditions and comorbidities, which are not just limited to severe or terminal illness. In fact, more than half of our COVID deaths over the last month are linked to hypertension and diabetes, cancer, obesity and chronic lung disease and other leading comorbidities.”

Hogan said that’s why state health officials are strongly urging people with comorbidities to get a booster shot as soon as possible.

Noting that federal guidance on booster eligibility can be confusing, Hogan tried to offer some clarity.

“The simplest thing to do first is to just look at your vaccination card. For both Pfizer and Moderna, if you received your second dose six months ago or more, you may qualify for one of the approved categories, which are: everyone 65 and older, everyone 18 and older with underlying health conditions, and everyone 18 and older whose occupation puts them at increased risk.”

“For all Marylanders who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, which means on or before Aug. 25, both the FDA and CDC are now recommending that you get a booster shot as soon as possible. And you can choose any vaccine as a booster shot even if it’s different from what you received initially.”

Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader said the state has about 1.8 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines on hand, and that all Marylanders have to do to get one is head to a nearby provider and attest that they are eligible for a booster.

In addition, the state is preparing to up its supply of vaccines for children, who could become eligible for a Pfizer vaccine as soon as next week.

“Pfizer has submitted data to the federal government which shows that its vaccine is safe and 90.7% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 [for] children. State health officials have begun placing orders for an initial 180,000 Pfizer doses for children working in partnership with pediatricians, pharmacies, school systems, local health departments and the Vaccine Equity Task Force,” Hogan said, noting that the state will provide additional updates to parents as it receives them.

But he said the state hasn’t stopped paying attention to another critical group: those who still refuse to get the vaccine.

“In the weeks ahead, we will remain relentlessly focused on getting more of those final 2% of seniors and remaining 14% of Marylanders who have not yet been vaccinated, while also urging the nearly 1.4 million Marylanders who are now eligible to get their booster shot as soon as possible,” he said.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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