2020 | Coronavirus

UPDATED: Montgomery County expecting at least 3,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week

Hospital-based health care workers will be first to receive vaccines

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Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center.

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Montgomery County hospitals are expecting to receive at least 3,900 doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine this week as the first shipments are delivered across the country.

Spokespeople for four local hospitals — Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, Adventist Health Care White Oak Medical Center, Holy Cross Hospital and Holy Cross Germantown Hospital — all said on Monday that they expect each facility to receive 975 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine by the middle of this week.

All said the vaccine will first be distributed to front-line health care workers, who generally have the greatest risk of exposure to the virus.

A spokeswoman for Suburban Hospital in Bethesda did not have information about the hospital’s vaccination plan on Monday.

A spokesperson for the MedStar Medical System provided recorded video messages from system officials explaining the preparation for the vaccines and how they will be distributed, but did not say how many doses the hospital expects or when.

In an interview on Sunday night, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Mary Anderson said that because hospitals will receive their vaccines directly from the federal government, the county did not have an estimate of how many doses the county will receive.

During a press conference last week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he expected the state to receive about 50,000 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccines should be distributed first to hospital-based health care workers and nursing home staffs and residents, Hogan said.

Hogan on Monday met virtually with the first five Marylanders to be vaccinated — staff members at the University of Maryland Medical System.

The initial doses are only for the first round of the two-step vaccination, Hogan said, but he added that he is confident the state will receive the doses for the second step in the time frame needed.

Kristin Feliciano, a spokeswoman for Holy Cross and Holy Cross Germantown, said the vaccines are shipped in batches of 975, so each facility is expecting at least that many “by the middle of this week.” She wrote that staffs at each facility have developed a “randomized list of priority level” for employees to be vaccinated, based on state and federal guidelines.

For example, she said, anyone who works in the highest risk departments, like in the emergency room, will be eligible for the vaccine first. They will be placed on a list in random order, so each person has “a fair and just opportunity to be vaccinated,” Feliciano wrote.

“We are not requiring the vaccination but we are strongly encouraging colleagues, medical staff, and community members to take the vaccine so that we can bring this pandemic to an end,” she wrote.

In a video message, MedStar Director of Health Care System Preparedness Christina Hughes said the “ultimate goal is that this vaccination will be available to all health care workers in time,” but initial doses will first be available to staff members who work in high-risk settings like the emergency department and urgent care.

During last week’s press conference, Acting Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said state guidelines, like federal guidelines, prioritize the first round of vaccines for hospital workers, first responders and those who live or work at nursing homes and congregate living facilities. Then, vaccination efforts will expand to include people with chronic diseases and people who work in education, transit, transportation, utility services and other “essential” jobs.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com