Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are providing more details about the mass COVID-19 vaccination site coming to Germantown, including the huge logistics operation required to get it running and how many shots it’s expected to administer when it fully launches.
The vaccine site at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College will open starting Monday as a county-run operation in essentially a pilot phase, with the capacity to do 1,500 shots a day, Montgomery County officials said during a briefing with reporters Wednesday.
Come April 5, the site is expected to ramp up — with help from the state — to a seven-day-a-week operation administering 3,000 shots a day, said Dr. Earl Stoddard, the head of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
The update on the Montgomery County site comes the day after Gov. Larry Hogan officially announced the site as one of the six additional large-scale vaccine sites the state is launching amid promises from the federal government that vaccine supplies will significantly increase in the coming weeks. One of the sites is the Timonium Fairgrounds site in Baltimore County, which is also set to transition to a state-supported vaccine site April 5.
Many details still remain to be worked out.
For example, the exact number of doses to be supplied to the Montgomery County site is not yet known. If enough doses are provided, the daily output equates to 21,000 vaccine doses administered a week — which is nearly three times the number of vaccine doses the county currently administers each week.
Hogan hasn’t talked specifics when it comes to the increased number of vaccine doses coming to the state, but earlier this week, acting Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said it could be up to 300,000 to 400,000 doses — compared to 128,000 doses this week.
“There’s an impending increase from the federal government that is coming,” Stoddard said, referring to Hogan’s earlier remarks, “and I suspect a significant chunk of that increase will be used over the coming weeks to fuel the site at Montgomery College and in Baltimore County.”
He added, “Obviously, we are extremely hopeful and confident that the Biden administration is going to come through with their pledge to rapidly increase doses. But in order for the state to commit to it, they have to see the doses from the feds.”
Who will get the shots?
The Germantown vaccine site will also be listed on Maryland’s mass-vaccination preregistration site — meaning residents of other counties will be able to sign up for shots there.
“While I expect our county to get a lot of these vaccinations . Some of these will be folks from other counties, just as Montgomery County residents have been going into Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and Prince George’s County for vaccines,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.
The county is still in talks with the Maryland Department of Health about how many appointments will go to people who have preregistered with the county versus the state’s own mass-vaccination preregistration list.
At the Six Flags mass vaccine site in neighboring Prince George’s County, for example, the state agreed to set aside 2,100 appointments a week specifically for Prince George’s County residents. Since the Six Flags site opened in early February, it has administered more than 100,000 shots, the governor said earlier this week.
The location of the site in Germantown places it within one of the ZIP codes the county has already identified as one of its most “high-risk” based on coronavirus case rates and deaths. Stoddard said it’s important for the county to consider “how are we going to make sure that residents in the area that it’s serving are going to be able to benefit from the site.”
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In contrast to Six Flags and most of the other large vaccine sites, the Germantown location will be a “walk-through” site. But officials still have to figure out traffic and transportation access for people who can’t drive or who don’t have access to cars.
Stoddard said the county is working on getting transportation set up between various other “transportation hubs” across the county.
“We have to make sure it’s equitable,” he said.
Overall, the site will require staffing of 130 people every hour.
As it stands now, more than 283,000 residents have received at least a single dose of the vaccine — about 27% of the county’s population.
Stoddard said it’s expected the Germantown site will receive its own “earmarked” allocation of doses and that the county health department will continue receiving its weekly allocation of doses, which will be used at other vaccine clinics throughout the county. This week, the department received 8,000 first doses.
Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said the county is excited about the large-scale site “to be able to get thousands of people through the queue on a daily basis.” But he said the county also will need additional sites.
“We also recognize that we have to continue to build up the infrastructure that we have in place in terms of having multiple venues that folks can access, including additional large community sites … as well as increased partnerships with our community partners to provide even better access deep within the community to take advantage of their footprints and their relationships with their client.”
Elrich says he’ll seek reelection, focused on COVID, for now
At the weekly briefing, Elrich, the county executive, was asked about news that Democrat David Blair, a Potomac businessman, will make another run for the county’s top job in 2022.
Elrich told reporters he hasn’t given the next election much thought, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t been doing planning for election because I’m focused on trying to get us through the end of COVID,” he said. “That would be a distraction for the moment; there’s plenty of time for electioneering.”
But Elrich confirmed he would be seeking reelection.
When asked about his handling of the pandemic, he said, “When I talk to people, the overwhelming response I get is that they wanted to feel safe and that we’ve helped them be safe.”
He added, “I’m comfortable with our COVID response. The data will show — pretty clearly shows — that we’ve been able to minimize the damage to human health in this county to the extent you can minimize anything.”
Blair lost to Elrich in the 2018 Democratic primary by just 77 votes. In deep blue Montgomery County, the winner in the Democratic primary typically puts a Democrat in office.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.