2021 | Coronavirus

County vaccine clinics opening to essential workers, residents age 65 and older

Officials want mass site at Montgomery College in Germantown

A resident receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a county-run clinic at White Oak Recreation Center in early January. The clinics are by appointment only and do not allow walk-ins.

File photo

More Montgomery County workers and residents will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine appointment invitations from the county health department as early as Wednesday.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, county officials said some essential workers and residents age 65 and older will soon have access to the vaccine through county-run clinics.

Thousands of people fit into the priority groups, so most will not receive an invitation to schedule an appointment right away.

County officials are also continuing their push for the state to open a mass vaccination site in Montgomery County.

Dr. Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said Wednesday that the county is proposing and preparing Montgomery College’s Germantown campus as a potential site. County officials previously mentioned the fairgrounds in Gaithersburg as a possible site, and at least one other unnamed site.

State officials have said they will potentially consider opening more sites once all of the first six have been opened across the state, none of which is in Montgomery County.

Here’s who will soon have access:

Phase 1B
Tier 2:
● Public transit workers (transport for seniors and persons with disabilities, etc.)
● Child care workers
● Food and agricultural workers
● Postal service workers
● Grocery store workers
● Individuals with developmental disabilities
● Individuals experiencing homelessness
● Individuals in detainee centers
Tier 3:
● Manufacturing workers

Phase 1C
Tier 1:
● Adults ages 65 to 74

Workers and residents in these groups join those already eligible, including health care workers, residents age 75 and older, and resident and staff members of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, and others.

They can preregister for the vaccine, but will not receive links to schedule an appointment until a vaccine is available for them.

Front-line essential workers will be prioritized based on the exposure risk to individuals with COVID-19, or those who can’t work from home or control social distancing.

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said Wednesday that the county has been working with industry leaders and employers who fit within the categories to prioritize employees based on the type and level of exposure in their work.

“We are in the process of going through those lists right now to begin sending links out to folks in the very near future, meaning likely today,” he said. “We hope to start that process and get people in.”

About 90,000 residents are estimated to be age 65 and older in the county.

Of the qualified essential workers, there are more than 25,000 school employees, 79,000 non-public school staff members, about 15,000 child care workers, around 1,500 emergency food providers, and more than 1,000 transit workers.

Stoddard said the county is still estimating numbers for the other essential worker groups, but it expects to be serving the next groups for a while.

“Suffice to say, there’s 150,000 or more people in the group we’re opening up this week,” he said. “As we talked about, we’re at 4,500 to 6,500 doses a week right now. … This is the largest group we have opened up to to date”

County officials hope that a mass vaccination site could help boost distribution and open up more phases more quickly.

Both state and county officials have repeatedly called on the state to open a site in the county, which is the largest jurisdiction and has had the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths and second highest number of confirmed cases.

State officials have said that the Six Flags America mass vaccination site in Prince George’s County should be sufficient for Montgomery County residents, who have accounted for a vast majority of the vaccinations at the site.

County staff members are working on preparing the needed infrastructure and planning for a mass vaccination site at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College.

Multiple 10,000-square-foot or larger spaces are available there, including a gymnasium and conference space. It has thousands of parking spots.

It is right off I-270 and could be accessible to Frederick County residents, too, Stoddard said.

“There’s a lot of space that is being underutilized, not just these large primary spaces, but adjacent to them,” he said. “It also so happens that the Germantown ZIP code in which Montgomery College is located is one of our priority ZIP codes [with a high case rate].”

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