Maryland will enter Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next week, making Marylanders 60 and over eligible for the shots, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday.
Maryland will enter Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next week, making Marylanders 60 and over eligible for the shots, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday, laying out an accelerated timeline of the state’s vaccine rollout that would make all adults eligible to receive vaccines by the end of next month.
Hogan also said Thursday the state is launching a pilot program to begin providing vaccine doses directly to primary care doctors throughout the state and to launch mobile vaccine clinics to administer doses in hard-to-reach rural areas of the state.
Here is a breakdown of the state’s new COVID-19 vaccine timeline:
Eligibility for those 60 and older begins March 23 under Phase 2a of the state’s plan. Starting now, however, they can preregister for appointments at one of Maryland’s mass vaccinations sites.
Starting March 30, the state will expand eligibility to those 16 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 illness, Hogan said.
Starting April 13, statewide eligibility expands to Marylanders 55 and over as well as essential workers of any age in critical industries, including food service and construction workers.
On April 27, Hogan said the state will move to Phase 3, under which every state resident over the age of 16 is eligible for the shots — meeting a goal set by President Joe Biden in a White House address last week.
Biden had urged states to make all Americans eligible by May 1.
For Marylanders, here is the vaccine eligibility timeline for Phases 2 & 3: pic.twitter.com/7iVECF65iB
— Mike Ricci (@riccimike) March 18, 2021
“With the announcement of this plan, now every single Marylander knows when they become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Hogan said.
The state has been ramping up vaccinations in recent weeks.
As of Thursday, the state marked its 2 millionth COVID-19 vaccine shot, and is averaging about 43,000 shots a day, Hogan said. That amounts to a doubling the number of shots administered in less than a month.
More than 23% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose — including two-thirds of Marylanders 65 and older, who have been prioritized for shots under current eligibility guidelines.
‘Supply is going to be pouring in’
The timeline Hogan laid out Thursday applies to state-run vaccine sites, including the half a dozen mass vaccination sites the state has set up, as well as the hundreds of retail pharmacies and hospitals across the state that receive vaccine doses from Maryland Department of Health.
Following Hogan’s previous announcements expanding statewide eligibility, local health departments in the D.C. area moved more slowly in following suit — citing extremely low supply and the need to prioritize vulnerable populations. For example, statewide eligibility guidelines Hogan announced in late January made Marylanders 65 and older eligible for the vaccine, while Prince George’s County only expanded access to that age group at its clinics earlier this week.
Hogan said he understood county leaders’ earlier concerns about inadequate supply. But he added, “The supply is going to be pouring in, and it’s going to where we can stick needles in peoples’ arms. And if people are going too slow, they’re going to be missing out.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Hogan said, “There’s going to be no excuse for any county to not be moving into Phase 2.”
Even though the state plans to move to Phase 2 next week, Marylanders who are currently eligible under the first phase of the vaccine plan but who have not yet been vaccinated “will continue to be prioritized,” Hogan said.
The governor said rapidly expanding eligibility now is possible because the federal government has promised states a “significant increase in vaccine supply,” Hogan said.
Still, he cautioned that supply would be limited in the near term.
“Just because you become eligible for a vaccine does not mean that you can immediately get a vaccine … Supply will be ramping up to meet all of the demand,” Hogan said. “But to be clear, we do expect that demand will continue to outpace the supply for at least the next several weeks.”
Hogan said he is hopeful the big boost in vaccine supply he said the federal government has promised will materialize.
“I’m hoping maybe they’re under-promising and that they’ll over-deliver, but I can’t guarantee it,” he said.
Hogan expressed optimism about the boost in doses even though he said the Biden administration had already backtracked by a few weeks on when increases in supplies would start shipping out, which the governor attributed to production issues.
“I have no control over it. I can only hope that what they’re telling us is factual and I guess maybe it’s trust but verify,” Hogan said.
37 primary care offices to get vaccine doses: ‘Tip of the iceberg’
In addition to expanding eligibility, Hogan also discussed efforts to broaden the number of places Marylanders can get COVID-19 vaccine shots.
Under the pilot program announced Thursday, the state would start shipping doses to 37 primary care practices across the state.
“These providers already have trusted, long-standing relationships with their patients, which are critical to helping us boost vaccine efforts,” Hogan said. Under the pilot program, primary care providers will be able to call their patients directly, which Hogan said helps minimize technology frustrations and other barriers to access.
The initial three dozen primary care offices volunteered for the effort and already have access to the state vaccine registry to tell who’s already been vaccinated.
The primary care offices selected for the pilot include those that service largely African American and Hispanic patients and those that serve patients with less geographic access to other sites, the governor said.
The offices are “ready to lean in right now on the on the equity issue,” said Dr. Howard Haft, executive director of the Maryland Primary Care Program, who appeared at the governor’s announcement. “So they can selectively reach out to those who have been left behind more than others, and they have these relationships.”
Haft said the pilot program is the “tip of the iceberg.”
The governor added, “Our goal would be to have these vaccines eventually at every one of those primary care physicians and elsewhere so that you can go to your doctor and get a vaccine. That’s the ultimate goal.”
In addition, Hogan said the state is launching mobile vaccine clinics to administer doses in hard-to-reach rural areas of the state. The mobile units are an effort of the state’s vaccine equity task force and will be deployed and staffed by the Maryland National Guard led by Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead.
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