EDITOR’S NOTE (Oct. 7, 2021, 7:10 p.m.): An earlier version of this story misidentified the Maryland senate president. This story has been updated.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state will be ready to administer more booster shots and vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11 once the federal government gives the go-ahead.
Federal approval for the boosters and vaccines for younger children is expected to arrive in the next few weeks, and Hogan said he is hoping to see it before Halloween.
At a Thursday news conference, Hogan said 140,000 booster shots have been administered in the state already, and 80,000 residents have appointments to receive a booster of the Pfizer vaccine. Hogan said he expects those numbers to rise dramatically once booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved.
He also said the state has been preparing to ramp up a vaccination campaign for children between 5 and 11 once the federal government authorizes it.
“The state health department is working with our local school systems and our county health departments to try to make sure that everybody is ready to immediately begin those vaccinations the moment that we’re given the authorization to do so,” Hogan said.
He said the state has a sufficient supply of vaccines to administer boosters, but has also coordinated with the White House to ensure that the supply chain is ready in case the vaccines for younger children are different doses than standard vaccines.
“The federal government has not made the determination about dosing sizes so you can’t have the vials already ready until that decision is made, but the White House has assured us they will have no problem … they say their supply chain will be ready to immediately get that out to the states,” Hogan said.
Hogan outlines plans for state’s budget surplus
Hogan also announced Thursday that despite setbacks posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland had attained a $2.5 billion budget surplus. He attributed the gains to several years of balanced budgets and budget cuts put in place by his administration.
Hogan outlined the five places he had identified as uses for the surplus: the state’s rainy day fund; tax relief for those who retire in Maryland; direct tax relief for Maryland residents; relief for underserved Marylanders and enhancements for state employees.
He said he could not delve into the specifics of many of the targeted areas, as the discussions of what each would cost the state and how they would be implemented are just getting underway.
Maryland Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley said estimates suggest there will be around $1.5 billion in the state’s rainy day fund after investments from the surplus. He said the money would act as a “shock absorber” in case of emergencies facing the state.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson expressed his displeasure with Hogan’s lack of concrete details surrounding the surplus.
“Today’s press conference by the Governor raised more questions than it answered regarding the State’s $2.5 billion surplus,” Ferguson said in a statement. “As always, the devil is in the details. I look forward to seeing those details when they are released and working with Governor. It is imperative that we make strategic investments in Maryland’s future while also getting support to vulnerable Marylanders across the State.”