A resident receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a county-run clinic at White Oak Recreation Center in early January. Health officials discussed their preparations for distributing vaccine to kids 5 to 11 years old at a County Council meeting Tuesday. Credit: File Photo

This story was updated at 4:37 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2021, to correct information regarding PrepMod appointment links.

It’s been two months since Montgomery County received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the state. So far, the county and other providers have given first-dose vaccines to about 107,589 residents and workers — about 10% of the county’s population of 1.05 million people.

Residents and workers have continued to grow concerned and confused about how, when and where they can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, especially because there isn’t a “one-stop” registration system in the state.

The quick answer: You can receive a coronavirus inoculation if you are eligible in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C. But where you can get it and when are completely different matters.

Here are some answers to how to navigate the quest for a vaccine in the county.

Who can currently get the vaccine?

The vaccine distribution is being completed in three phases. Each phase has priority groups, and groups have priority tiers.

In Phase 1A of Montgomery County’s rollout, the phase is split into three tiers and the county has been working its way through those tiers.

Two vaccines — from Pfizer and Moderna — are federally approved. Both are two-dose vaccines and must be administered with three to four weeks between doses.

The county’s health department clinics are vaccinating eligible residents and workers in Phase 1A and residents ages 75 and older. But across the state, eligibility has been expanded through Phase 1C.

That doesn’t mean every provider is vaccinating in all of those phases. They can vaccinate through Phase 1C, but many have not moved to later phases because they are still trying to vaccinate eligible residents and workers in priority groups, such as health care workers, teachers, residents with developmental disabilities and the elderly.

Many providers are opening appointments only as they receive shipments of vaccine doses, which means they are not scheduling appointments weeks in advance.

Appointments are opened for each group. If the appointments aren’t filled, county officials and providers move to the next group to keep distribution rolling.

There are no current vaccines approved for children under 16 years old, but vaccine clinical trials are in process for the age group.

Find a full list of who is eligible in each phase here.

The state is in Phase 1C. Why aren’t the county and other providers?

Similar to reopenings and restrictions on businesses that were specific to each county, the statewide vaccine rollout will not be the same from each jurisdiction to the next. Likewise, the county and other providers will not always be on the same track for who they are vaccinating.

As of Tuesday morning, Montgomery County has provided first-dose vaccines to about 10% of its population of roughly 1.05 million people, landing the county in 18th out of 24 jurisdictions for percentage of population vaccinated.

About 3% of the county’s population has received a second dose.

But Montgomery, the state’s largest county, has administered the most first-dose vaccines statewide at 107,589. It has administered 34,022 second doses.

Smaller counties will have higher percentages because they have fewer residents and received more vaccine doses than were needed for Phase 1A, according to county health officials.

Kent County, with a population of more than 19,500, sits at the top, having vaccinated 20% of its residents, including vaccines from hospital systems and the federal pharmacy partnership.

For county-run clinics, those who received a first dose will be prioritized for a second dose. If those second doses are not used, they will be reverted for use as first doses.

How do you preregister for a vaccine appointment with the county?

You can preregister for a vaccine in the county-run clinics, if you are in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C. You can expect to receive a confirmation email and appointment information from the county once availability opens.

Will you receive confirmation when you preregister? When will you be contacted about vaccine appointments?

You will receive confirmation of preregistration from the county for county-run clinics. A text or email with appointment registration information will be sent to registrants once they are eligible for the vaccine.

A weekly update was launched and is sent to those who have preregistered.

Who is administering the vaccine?

Every local health department is administering vaccines, including Montgomery County. Hospital systems have been providing the vaccine doses to their staff members.

The federal government has a partnership with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to administer the vaccines in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

Maryland formed partnerships for vaccines to be administered through pharmacies at certain Walmart, Giant, Safeway and Rite Aid locations. Walgreens pharmacies are also offering the vaccine.

Appointments must be made for each location. Vaccine doses are extremely limited through the store pharmacies. Vaccine prioritization is also being placed with people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B.

The locations in Montgomery County include:
● Giant Food, 10400 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda (301-530-3271)
● Giant Food, 229 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg (301-208-8204)
● Giant Food, 1280 East West Highway, Silver Spring (301-565-0575)
● Giant Food, 15618 Columbia Pike, Burtonsville (301-421-4493)
● Safeway, 5510 Norbeck Road, Rockville (appointments)
● Safeway, 11201 Georgia Ave., Wheaton (appointments)

Mass vaccinations sites were opened at Six Flags American in Prince George’s County and the Baltimore Convention Center.

The state is also working on a plan to open four other mass vaccination sites, including M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The stadium site will open in mid-February Other locations in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore are being finalized.

Hospitals and health centers are also vaccinating eligible residents and workers.

Holy Cross Health owns and operates two hospitals in Montgomery County — one in Silver Spring and the other in Germantown. The health system is prioritizing people in Phases 1A and 1B. It will open appointments to Phase 1C in the future depending on availability of the vaccines and progress in vaccinating the prior groups.

Appointment slots are released on the hospital’s vaccine website page. Information on what people will need to bring to appointments to verify age or occupation will be emailed to registered individuals.

An appointment email confirmation and specific documentation will be needed for people in Phases 1A (licensure or health care identification), 1B (driver’s license or proof of age for 75 and older) or others in 1B (proof of employment in the qualifying group such as an ID badge, letter from an employer or recent pay stub).

Holy Cross Health is aligning with the county’s direction on distribution with prioritization groups.

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney is vaccinating its own patients who meet the criteria in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. It is also contacting some of its most vulnerable patients.

Residents of the state who are age 65 or older can request a vaccination appointment through MedStar here.

Adventist HealthCare has opened vaccine clinics near the Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville and the Takoma Park Alternate Care Site, formerly known as Washington Adventist Hospital.

The health system is following the state’s rollout plans for the vaccines and is providing vaccines to people eligible in Phases 1A, 1B and people who are 65 and older. The rest of the people eligible in Phase 1C are not eligible at the centers yet.

Residents can sign up for “alert” emails to notify them when additional appointments become available through the clinics.

Johns Hopkins Medicine is vaccinating its patients who are eligible in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C and because of a limited supply, is randomly selecting eligible patients to schedule a vaccination.

An eligible patient is anyone who has received care with a Johns Hopkins Medicine provider within the last two years. Those who would like to sign up for a vaccine through Johns Hopkins must activate their MyChart account.

People who meet the criteria will be contacted by email or phone when it is their turn to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Kaiser Permanente is currently vaccinating health care workers, long-term care patients and staff members, and its oldest patients. Patients will be contacted when they qualify and there is enough supply of doses.

If patients are 75 and older and a Kaiser Permanente member, they are already on a list of qualified patients and will be contacted to schedule a vaccine appointment when supplies allow.

If patients qualify for the vaccine, a COVID-19 Vaccine Interest questionnaire can be completed here. You must be a kp.org registered user to fill out the form.

Vaccines are also accessible for veterans enrolled in VA healthcare at VA medical centers in Washington, D.C., and Martinsburg, Virginia.

Maryland has created a search system to help narrow the search for a vaccine clinic or provider. The site can be found here.

Do you have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to the county’s website, there is no cost for the vaccine at county-sponsored clinics. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine. The county will cover the cost for uninsured individuals.

Why does the county only have about 10% of its population vaccinated?

The county has received about 18,000 to 20,000 doses each week.

Although Montgomery County has the highest number of vaccinations administered in the state, it also has the largest population that needs to be vaccinated.

State delegates and county officials have called on the state to distribute more vaccines to the county health department. They have said the jurisdiction is moving more slowly through its rollout than other counties because Montgomery does not have enough vaccines for the eligible populations.

The county health department has the capacity to administer 2,500 to 3,500 vaccine doses a day, but officials are not receiving the number of doses they need to reach that capacity.

The state’s rollout is based on overall jurisdiction population, not by populations of vaccine eligibility.

The state’s weekly distributions of doses to the county range from its first shipment, which was 100 doses, to 8,600 during the week of Jan. 12.

The state receives about 70,000 doses a week and distributes the doses to hospital systems, pharmacies and local health departments.

Where is the county administering the vaccines?

Only people who are currently eligible and have an appointment can receive a vaccine at a county-run clinic.

The vaccine clinics are at:
● White Oak Recreation Center: 1700 April Ln., Silver Spring
● Upper County Recreation Center: 8201 Emory Grove Road, Gaithersburg
● Germantown Recreation Center: 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown
● Public Safety Training Academy: 8751 Snouffer School Road, Gaithersburg
● Quince Orchard High School: 15800 Quince Orchard Road, North Potomac
● Richard Montgomery High School: 250 Richard Montgomery Dr., Rockville

Do you need to preregister for a second dose if you received a first dose from a county-run clinic?

No, the county health department will contact you about three weeks after you get your first dose to schedule an appointment. The email will come from c19vaccination@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Can you share your appointment registration link with others?

No, you cannot. The state’s PrepMod system, which is used for county-run clinics as well, will soon be modified to send out one-use links. Do not share the appointment link with others.

If they register using your link before you do, you could lose your spot to them and they will not receive a vaccine if they are not eligible.

Do you have to live in Montgomery County to receive a vaccine in the county? Can you receive the vaccine in a different jurisdiction?

County officials have said Montgomery County residents will be prioritized first. However, people will not be turned away from the county’s clinics if they live elsewhere and are eligible.

The mass vaccination site at Six Flags in Prince George’s County has vaccinated several thousand Montgomery County residents and workers.

Is a COVID-19 vaccination mandated for workers?

There are no current mandates that require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, though it’s possible that individual employers might make their own policies.

How do you find more information?

More information can be found through these resources:
● Montgomery County vaccine website: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine/
● Maryland vaccine website: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine
● Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

Residents and workers in Phases 1B and 1C can preregister for the vaccine here.

A Preregistration Helpline for county-run clinics is available for preregistration assistance at 240-777-2982. General vaccine questions can be directed to the county at 240-777-1755.

Staff members are available to callers in English and Spanish. The call center is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here?

Email your question to briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com and include “COVID Q&A” in the subject line. We will try to answer it.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.