2021 | Coronavirus

County plans to add walk-up lines, open appointments for COVID-19 vaccine

Access could expand once there is lag in vaccine appointments

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Silver Spring resident Tasha Harris receives her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccine site on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021.

File photo

Montgomery County is planning to add COVID-19 vaccine walk-up, no-appointment lines and create an open appointment portal — not limited to certain phases — for its vaccination clinics and sites in a few weeks.

Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said during a media briefing on Monday that the county is considering adding the walk-up lines and portal, starting no sooner than mid-May.

“I think you’ll likely see us start with just having more and more open appointments for people to just go to the portal online, pick a time and show up at that time,” he said. “Then we’re likely to expand into where you don’t need to have anything done in advance — you show up and we register you onsite.”

Smaller clinics with onsite registration could be targeted for areas where the county has had higher proportions of people not vaccinated.

“We’re going to let the public interest and behavior tell us when to move forward,” Stoddard said. “Meaning, as soon as we start to see a lag in how quickly we fill our clinics, we’ll [pick a date].”

About 135,000 people have preregistered for a vaccination with the county, but have not received one yet. Of those, a little less than 90,000 have received an invitation for an appointment. Most of the remainder will probably receive an invitation over the next two or three weeks, Stoddard said.

About 1,300 people who have signed up for a vaccine are homebound. About half of those have been vaccinated.

State deliveries of vaccine doses to the county have decreased thanks to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being put on hold and other mass vaccination sites opening and needing doses, too. The county halted use of the J&J vaccine last week after federal agencies began reviewing whether six cases of rare blood clots are related to the vaccine.

The county has had a 20% reduction in doses for the mass vaccination site and is providing 1,200 first doses a day, which is half the capacity of the site, according to Stoddard.

“It’s going to look pretty empty,” he said of the site, adding that the dose deliveries are expected to continue to decrease as more state sites open.

“We were clamoring for the opening of our site, so I can’t begrudge any other community for clamoring for the opening of a site in their location,” he said. “We’ve been hearing about this avalanche of vaccines coming for almost two months now and we’re still waiting.”

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