Montgomery Co. exec Elrich joins COVID vaccine ‘boosterama’ in Wheaton

To help lift the area’s rate of COVID booster vaccination, Montgomery County, Maryland, held a special “Super Saturday Boosterama” to get shots in the arms of shoppers at Westfield Wheaton Mall.

The event, created in partnership with Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar and Westfield Wheaton, ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of the mall’s food court, providing around booster shots for all eligible, and first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for adults.

Marc Elrich, county executive for Montgomery County, was at the event and said he was impressed how many people turned out for another dose.

“People got in line at 9 a.m. for the shots available at 10. People wanted to be there. It wasn’t just people who happened to be in the mall.” Elrich said. “They stayed lined up until basically, they cut the line because we were going to be out of vaccine.”

According to Elrich, the clinic had originally planned to provide 300 booster shots on Saturday. But, when on-site supplies began to run out, staff had to send a driver to a nearby clinic to get more doses.

At present, 81% of Montgomery County residents are fully vaccinated, and 94% have received at least one dose. To date, more than 230,000 booster doses have been administered at County-operated vaccination clinics, according to a news release.

When asked whether the county’s mask mandate could be lifted if the area’s vaccination rate hits 85% — a number many have equated with herd immunity —  Elrich says, with the spread of omicron variant, it’s not enough.

“We know now, because of omicron, the herd is not immune. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people are getting the new variant of the virus,” Elrich said. “That’s why the boosters are important — because that booster shot restores the protections that we had with the first two shots … The assumption that 85% means immunity now is just no longer true.”

In addition to the vaccination push, Elrich said he hopes to get more rapid testing kits out and around the county.

“When people were (first) getting vaccinated, testing frequency went down. With the surge of Delta, and then the appearance of omicron, requests for testing have gone up and supply is constrained right now,” Elrich said. “If it’s available, we’re trying to make sure we have enough so we can step it up. We’re gonna keep buying to make sure we can continue to address the needs in the county.”

Overall, Elrich said he was encouraged by the turnout at Saturday’s ‘boosterama’ event.

“It looked like Montgomery County, you know. Ethnically and age-wise, it was a very diverse group.”

WTOP’s Anna Gawel and Valerie Bonk contributed to this story.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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