EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect the correct percentage of fully vaccinated residents needed to enter the new phase of reopening in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Once the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is ready to be used in kids 12-15, Montgomery County, Maryland, officials say there will be specific guidelines for children and their guardians to follow.
County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said in a virtual news briefing Wednesday that guardians will not be required to accompany their 12 to 15-year-olds to their vaccination appointments once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidance for how to use the vaccine in that age group. He said kids can access any vaccination location to receive a shot as long as it offers the Pfizer vaccine.
However, Gayles said guardians will be required to fill out consent forms beforehand through PrepMod, and children must bring a form of ID to prove their age. Some valid forms of ID include a birth certificate, passport or school ID.
He said these guidelines follow the same policy for children receiving the flu vaccine.
“We are working with our partners in both the nonpublic school group as well as the public school MCPS to identify some potential sites within the next week to do some youth specific clinics to be able to again increase access points to get that population covered,” Gayles said.
Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Earl Stoddard said in the briefing that preference was given to distributing the Moderna vaccine earlier this week, so that the county could save as many Pfizer vaccines as possible.
County Executive Marc Elrich said that the county could begin vaccinating the new age group as early as Thursday, depending on when the CDC issues its recommendations. He also said that residents in the 12 to 15 age group can preregister for the vaccine. He said 5,000 kids have already preregistered.
Elrich said that once Montgomery County begins to open back up, the county government might look different. He said while some people will come back to work in-person, some will continue to work remotely.
As the county is projected to reach the 50% mark of residents fully vaccinated by the end of the week or early next week, officials emphasized the importance of all residents getting vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
“When people are hesitant and don’t get vaccinated, that means there will continue to be a population that will get sick,” Elrich said.
Gayles said the county will enter Phase 3 of reopening once 50% of residents are fully vaccinated – meaning two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
While officials said this was encouraging, Gayles said “our response doesn’t stop” when the county hits 60% or 50%, because nearly half of Montgomery residents still won’t be vaccinated.
“Get vaccinated, you do control your destiny,” he said.
Stoddard added that the end of the virus doesn’t mean the end of Montgomery County’s challenges – “We’ve got a lot of work in this recovery,” he said in regards to addressing long-term trauma, mental health and housing issues.
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