2021 | Coronavirus

What to know as vaccinations ramp up, preregistration opens to all residents age 16 and up

Have a question about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution? We’ll try to answer it.

A Montgomery County vaccinator prepares COVID-19 vaccine syringes at the county clinic on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021.

Photo by Briana Adhikusuma

Montgomery County residents are getting more chances to get vaccinated.

The county on Wednesday opened a new COVID-19 vaccine site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus. Around Thursday of next week, it will become a state mass vaccination site.

The site is operated under a partnership among the state, county, Holy Cross Health and Montgomery College.

The county expects to see an increased shipment of vaccine doses from the state.

But as vaccinations increase, the threat of cases has been increasing, too, as variants of the coronavirus spread throughout the state. Variant cases, identified through sequencing testing, make the virus more transmissible.

At a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan said the state has identified 677 cases of variants in the state. Of those, 86% of them are the UK variant.

Hogan said the variants have caused increases in cases and hospitalizations, especially of younger patients, mostly in Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

Hogan announced that preregistration for a coronavirus vaccine is now open to all residents in Maryland age 16 and older. Preregistration allows residents and workers to place their information into the state’s system.

Once enough doses and appointments are available, invitations to sign up for appointments will be sent to eligible residents and workers.

Montgomery County opened its preregistration to all residents age 16 and older on Tuesday.

Although preregistration has opened to everyone except for minors under age 16, the state and county are only actively vaccinating eligible individuals in Phases 1, 2A and 2B. Others who are preregistered will be notified when they become eligible to make an appointment.

Here’s what you need to know about the mass vaccination site and preregistration in Montgomery County.

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Now that every resident and worker age 16 and older can preregister, do I sign up with the state or the county?

You can sign up with either preregistration system, but county officials recommend signing up through both the state and the county.

Of the vaccine doses provided to the county’s mass vaccination site in Germantown, 10% will be reserved for county residents. The rest of the doses will go to a combination of Montgomery County residents and residents from other jurisdictions.

You can preregister with the state here and preregister with the county here. Preregistration does not guarantee you an appointment right away.

County residents and workers also can sign up for appointments through certain hospitals, medical providers, pharmacies, community clinics, and others.

The state and county will continue to prioritize vaccine doses by priority groups.

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Who is being vaccinated?

The state and county are vaccinating residents and workers based on the state’s vaccination phases and priority groups after a March 22 order required the counties to align with the state’s phases.

Eligible residents and workers in Phases 1, 2A and 2B are currently being vaccinated. On Thursday, Hogan said there will be announcements in the coming days about opening other vaccine eligibility phases.

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What are the vaccine phases and priority groups and when will they open?

Currently open for appointments:
● Phase 1A: health care providers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, correctional health care staff and officers, and frontline judiciary staff
● Phase 1B: residents age 75 and older, residents and employees of assisted living facilities and group homes, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, high-risk incarcerated adults, government officials, K-12 teachers and child care providers
● Phase 1C: residents age 65 and older; public health and safety workers; essential workers in grocery stores, lab services, manufacturing, U.S. Postal Service, public transit, and food and agriculture production
● Phase 2A: residents age 60 and older
● Phase 2B: residents with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness

Not open for appointments yet:
● Phase 2C (open on April 13): residents age 55 and older and essential workers in critical industries, including construction, food services, utilities, transportation, financial services, IT and other infrastructure
● Phase 3 (open on April 27): residents age 16 and older

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What can I expect at the mass vaccination site in Montgomery County? What do I need to bring?

Montgomery County’s new site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus is by appointment only and will ramp up for mass vaccination on or around Thursday.

People with appointments are asked to bring a photo ID. If there is a language barrier for the appointee, they can bring a person with them for translation.

Several staff members on site can speak other languages. If a language barrier cannot be solved on site, county staff members use a language assistance line.

When the site opened on Wednesday as an initial county-run site, police officers and traffic cones guided vehicles through the campus and to the parking lot by the college’s biosciences building.

People with appointments were guided through the building by signage pointing to the registration area, then to vaccination rooms where staff members divided them based on whether they were receiving a first or second dose.

People in wheelchairs or with mobility concerns are guided to a separate line that is more direct and has staff members for assistance.

Once a vaccine dose was administered, people were moved to a monitoring room, where they would sit for 15 minutes in case of an allergic reaction to a vaccine.

The site was vaccinating more than 500 people on opening day, but has a current capacity of up to 1,500. The county and state have a shared goal of increasing doses at the site to 3,000 by April 15.

The site will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and will expand to additional days once vaccine doses are increased.

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Where are the rest of the mass vaccination sites in the state?

The sites that are already open:
● Six Flags America in Prince George’s County
● Baltimore Convention Center
● M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
● Regency Furniture Stadium in Charles County
● Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury
● Hagerstown Premium Outlets
The sites that are planned to open:
● Montgomery College’s campus in Germantown (opened as county site on Wednesday; will be mass vaccination site on or around April 8)
● Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County by April 5
● Greenbelt Metro Station in Prince George’s County on April 7 (partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency)
● Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Anne Arundel County by April 12
● Frederick Community College by April 12
● Ripken Stadium in Harford County the week of April 19
● Mall in Columbia in Howard County the week of April 26

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Do any of the mass vaccination sites allow walk-in vaccines?

Only one state mass vaccination site currently allows walk-in vaccines, but they are only given to residents and workers eligible in Phases 1, 2A and 2B.

Hogan announced on Thursday that the site at Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury would start allowing walk-up lines for eligible residents and workers, beginning Friday.

More mass vaccination sites are expected to add no-appointment lines in the future.

Although there will be opportunities to receive vaccines without appointments, Hogan urged residents to schedule appointments instead.

“We still recommend that the best way to ensure you get a vaccine at any of our sites is to preregister and schedule an appointment,” he said.

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I’ve already been vaccinated. Can I cancel my preregistration with the county health department?

Yes, you can.

If you have already been vaccinated elsewhere, you can cancel your preregistration for a county-run clinic here. Completing the form will take you off the list.

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Are more restrictions expected to be lifted?

The Montgomery County Council has not announced any new considerations of lifting more restrictions.

Hogan said Thursday that the Maryland Department of Health will work with local jurisdictions on plans to reopen senior centers by the end of April.

Before those reopenings, closed-pod vaccination clinics will be set up at senior centers, he said.

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Can you choose which vaccine you get?

Residents and workers can’t choose which vaccine is administered, but health officials have assured that all of them are viable and effective. The approved vaccines are from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
County officials have said that there will likely be a specific type of vaccine at each county-run clinic. When residents register for an appointment, they will know which type of vaccine they will receive at the clinic.
If they do not want the particular vaccine associated with the appointment, there will be a potential wait for an appointment for a different vaccine.

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How many residents have been vaccinated?

As of Thursday, 341,758 county residents, or 32.5% of the county’s population, have received a first dose of a two-dose vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna. The two-dose vaccines are administered three to four weeks apart.
There are 185,768 residents, or 17.7% of the population, who are fully vaccinated with a second dose or with the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

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If COVID-19 vaccinations are increasing, is it still necessary to get COVID-19 tests?

You should still get a COVID-19 test if you have had any known exposure to anyone who has had symptoms or who has tested positive — or if you have been around a large group of people or have traveled.
County officials have said COVID-19 testing has seen a dip in the last month. But testing helps the county track where and how cases are spreading.

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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 eligible phases can preregister with the state and the county.

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

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

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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.

Our past vaccine Q&As are available here:
March 26
March 18
March 11
March 5
February 24
February 17
January 19

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