After about three months of vaccine distribution, Marylanders now have a better sense of when they will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Thursday afternoon that all state residents will become eligible for the vaccine no later than April 27, under the state’s guidelines.
Montgomery County, however, has been operating under its own guidelines, moving more slowly through its phases, officials have said, because its vaccine supply from the state has been limited.
Hogan also announced that the state will enter Phase 2A of the state’s vaccine plan on Tuesday, which will open up appointments to all residents age 60 and older. Preregistration is open for the group now.
One week later, on March 30, the state will move into Phase 2B, which will include residents age 16 and older with certain medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
Then, Phase 2C, which will include residents age 55 to 60 and essential workers in certain industries, will open on April 13. Industries include food services, utilities, construction workers, IT, and other infrastructure roles.
Hogan said at a press conference on Thursday that the schedule is based on the federal government’s promise that the state will begin to see “significant” increases in vaccine supply beginning the week of March 29.
The federal government has not promised a specific number of doses, Hogan said.
“If they deliver on what they say they’re going to deliver, then April is going to look a heck of a lot different than March,” he said. “While we’re very close to 50,000 a day, we can get to 100,000 a day.”
Hogan cautioned that just because residents become eligible, it doesn’t mean they will immediately have access to a vaccine dose.
“We can’t schedule appointments for vaccines that we don’t have or don’t yet exist.” he said. “Supply will be ramping up to meet the demand but to be clear, we do expect that demand will continue to outpace the supply for at least the next several weeks.”
Once an appointment is available for a particular group, appointment invitations will be sent to residents who are eligible.
Residents and workers eligible in Phase 1 will continue to be prioritized at mass vaccination sites, Hogan said.
An announcement about additional mass vaccination sites in the state will be made next week, Hogan said.
Dr. Earl Stoddard, executive director of Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, announced Tuesday that the county would receive a mass vaccination site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus. But Hogan said later that day that the announcement was a “bit premature” and no decision had been made yet, as the state was discussing the possibility of a site with four or five counties.
On Thursday, Hogan said “some council members in Montgomery County, I think, jumped the gun and made an announcement that wasn’t quite there yet. We’re continuing to talk with them every day.”
The state is planning to increase access to vaccines in additional ways, including a new pilot program that will provide doses to primary care providers.
The program will start with 37 providers spread across the state. The providers will be able to call patients directly to schedule vaccine appointments and will have focus on demographic and geographic equality.
The state is also increasing its distribution to 275 pharmacies, 38 hospitals and 24 health departments.
A new $12 million COVID-19 community vaccine program will also be launched and fund hospital-led, community-based vaccination initiatives.
Mobile vaccine units will also be launched in hard-to-reach, rural areas on the Eastern Shore.
“We have built the infrastructure capacity and we are being promised the increased supply to be able to vaccinate every Marylander in the next couple months,” Hogan said. “I can assure you that [Health Secretary Dennis Schrader] and our entire team will not rest until every single Marylander who wants a vaccine has received a vaccine.”
When Montgomery County’s mass vaccination site opens, it’s not clear if it will operate according to the state’s phasing or the county’s phasing.
Montgomery County is currently vaccinating residents and workers eligible in the county’s Phase 1A, 1B and residents age 65 and older. The eligibility includes health care workers, medical providers, adults age 65 and older, and certain essential workers. A list of the county’s phases can be found here.
Private providers, pharmacies and hospitals can choose whether to follow the county phases or the state phases.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.