SNOW HILL – As COVID-19 vaccine demand continues to outpace supply, Worcester County residents are advised to keep checking the state’s website for available clinics.
The Worcester County Health Department has been inundated in recent weeks with queries from people interested in getting vaccinated. Currently Maryland is in Phase 1B of its vaccine program and is set to move to 1C, which makes the vaccine available to ages 65-74, on Monday.
“As of 1/19/21 we’ve administered 1,700 COVID-19 vaccines out of 1,900 received (89%),” said Travis Brown, the health department’s public affairs officer. “We’ve held 12 clinics since 12/28. We have another five clinics scheduled over the next several days and will continue to schedule new clinics weekly as vaccine is secured.”
After initial vaccinations of health care workers, Maryland entered Phase 1B of vaccine rollout, which made it available to those in assisted living, those 75 and older and those employed in education or continuity of government, on Jan. 18. In the days since, however, many local elderly residents have reported difficulty getting signed up to be vaccinated. Brown said the signup had to be done online at www.MarylandVax.org.
“If no clinics are showing up, that means that both the appointments and the waiting list for those clinics are full,” said Brown, adding that wait lists were capped at a few hundred people. “We continue to schedule new clinics as vaccine is secured so we encourage residents to check MarylandVax.org daily. If they need help navigating the website, we recommend asking a friend or family member. If they still need assistance, they can call 667-253-2140 during business hours Monday through Friday to speak with staff.”
Because so many of those over 75 are still waiting to be vaccinated, the health department is asking those in the current phase who are comfortable waiting to do so.
“While we are currently providing vaccine to anyone in Phase 1B (and Phase 1A), doses are limited,” Brown said. “Our first round of clinics for 1B filled up almost immediately. We know that those who are 75 years old and older are at some of the greatest risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms; everyone in Phase 1A or 1B can register but we’re asking those who are comfortable waiting a few days extra for a vaccine to do so, which will allow more of the elderly population an opportunity to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.”
In fact, county teachers who signed up for vaccinations this week were discouraged from getting their shots in an email from the health department. The county school system rebutted the email, encouraging teachers to not give up their appointments.
The state moves to Phase 1C, which opens vaccine eligibility to those between 65 and 74 and essential workers, on Monday.
“Just because we begin a new phase does not mean that we are finished with previous phases,” Brown said. “Clinics will continue to be open to those in Phase 1A and 1B who have not yet received a vaccination. We will continue to run clinics based on vaccine availability and we’re committed to getting doses out to the public as soon as possible. While the state’s phase system overall is designed to prioritize those most at-risk and most vulnerable to COVID-19, we do ask that those comfortable waiting for clinics later this month or in February do so, which gives those most vulnerable an opportunity to get vaccinated with our limited supply first.”
And as far as the second shot, Brown says those who have received the first shot should get an email with a link to sign up for their second dose.
“Those second dose clinics are initially private, then opened up to registration once those who need their follow-up shot have had a chance to get their spot,” he said. “The date on the back of the card is for 28 days after the initial dose but you can get your second shot within a four-day window of that date. Please bring your vaccination record with you to your second appointment.”
Brown said officials are aware there are a lot of questions regarding the vaccine and encourages citizens to monitor www.MarylandVax.org as well as the Worcester County Health Department’s website and social media pages. Residents can also call 667-253-2140 during business hours.
At a press conference last week, Gov. Larry Hogan discussed a pilot program with Walmart and Giant pharmacies on administering vaccines to launch on Jan. 25. Ten Walmart locations, including Berlin, will be offering appointment-only vaccinations at the www.covidvax.maryland.gov site. Hogan said as the vaccination supply increases more pharmacies will be included in the distribution effort.
Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford were among the state officials vaccinated this week as part of the continuity of government plan.
“Getting vaccinated is the only way to keep you, your family, your friends, and your community healthy and safe, and it is absolutely critical to preventing more illnesses, more hospitalizations, and more deaths,” said Hogan. “It’s the only way to end the damage to our economy and to bring this pandemic to an end.”
At a press conference last week, Hogan urged all Marylanders to get vaccinated as they become available to them.
“A return to a sense of normalcy has been made possible by COVID-19 vaccines, which have been approved by America’s leading medical experts, and which have 95 percent efficacy,” he said. ““The process was rigorous and transparent throughout with continual FDA oversight and expert approval. Getting vaccinated is critical to preventing more illnesses and more deaths, and it will keep you, your family, your friends, and your community healthy and safe.”