Just a few hours after federal health officials endorsed COVID-19 booster shots for millions of older adults and those who work in the health care field or other high-risk jobs, leaders in Maryland and its most populous county are discussing plans for getting third shots in people’s arms.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, officials said Friday they plan to expand county-run vaccination sites — including reopening a clinic at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College early next month — to meet expected demand.
“While this action was long overdue, I am glad that the federal government has finally approved booster shots for seniors and high-risk individuals. It is a significant step toward providing additional protection for our most vulnerable residents,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement.
Under a move announced by Hogan earlier this month, nursing home residents older than 65 were already cleared for booster shots.
High-risk jobs added to booster-eligible list
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention move, the Maryland Department of Health issued a bulletin to vaccine providers, including retail pharmacies, Friday morning urging them “not to miss any opportunity to vaccinate every eligible person who presents at vaccine clinics.”
The CDC recommendations for boosters is limited to those who received Pfizer vaccine and include:
- People 65 and older
- People in long-term care facilities
- People with underlying medical conditions
The Maryland bulletin says people seeking boosters are allowed to “self-attest” that they meet the criteria, and that providers cannot turn people away for failing to show proof.
The bulletin stated: “Providers shall not turn away any individual who self-attests to eligibility for an additional dose or booster dose. Failure of an individual to ‘show proof’ of eligibility shall not be a reason that a provider does not administer an additional or booster dose.”
In his statement, Hogan said, “Maryland has already administered more than 50,000 additional doses, and we have both the supply and the capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one. We have mobilized a robust network of vaccination providers, including pharmacies, primary care providers, mobile clinics, community health centers, and local health departments.”
Montgomery Co. increasing capacity
In Montgomery County, where 88.3% of the eligible 12-and-older population was already fully vaccinated ahead of the CDC’s booster guidance, the county is planning to expand its vaccination efforts to meet expected demand.
“We are gearing up to increase what we’re doing to help meet that demand,” Sean O’Donnell, with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said during a town hall Friday.
O’Donnell said that the county had scaled back its sites as the pace of vaccinations had slowed over spring and summer.
“But we expect that with the booster guidance, we’re going to need to increase our capacity.”
The county is gearing up for vaccine sites at:
- The East County Recreation Center (daily)
- Germantown campus of Montgomery College (daily)
- Silver Spring Civic Building (Monday through Thursday)
Those sites are not open yet. The date for them to open is Oct. 11, but O’Donnell said the county is looking to see whether that can be moved up.
As opposed to the beginning of the vaccine rollout, when the supply of the vaccines was extremely limited, pharmacies, grocery stores and other private providers are now flush with doses, too.
People should make sure they received the Pfizer vaccine and check their vaccine cards to make sure it’s been six months since their second shot, O’Donnell said.
Currently, county-run vaccination clinics and testing sites are open at Dennis Avenue Health Center, Montgomery College in Rockville and the Upcounty Regional Service Center.
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