2021 | Government

Officials confident that Montgomery County will hit 85% full vaccination benchmark

At that level, county’s indoor mask mandate regulations are terminated

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A Montgomery County vaccinator prepares a COVID-19 vaccine syringe at the county clinic on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021. County officials think that, with 5- to 11-year-old residents now eligible, the county will hit a 85% vaccination rate, which would permanently terminate rules concerning the county's indoor mask mandate.

File Photo

Senior Montgomery County officials said Wednesday they are confident that efforts to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds will help the county reach an 85% full vaccination rate.

The 85% mark is significant, because the County Council, acting as the Board of Health, recently amended the county’s indoor mask mandate regulations. The possibility of a mask mandate would terminate the first calendar day after 85% of the county’s total population is fully vaccinated, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Fully vaccinated,” as defined by the CDC, is 14 days after someone receives a second dose of a two-dose vaccine or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the CDC COVID-19 data tracker showed 77.9% of the county’s population had been fully vaccinated, and 87% of the county’s total population had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Currently, the indoor mask mandate is not in effect, as the Board of Health also amended its order to require seven straight days of “substantial transmission,” per CDC guidelines. 

Substantial transmission is 50 to 99.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period.

State and local data show that as of Wednesday, the county is in its second straight day of substantial transmission. But because of a lag concerning CDC data, the county just entered substantial transmission on the CDC dashboard on Wednesday, up from a “moderate transmission” level. 

Moderate transmission is defined as 10 to 49.99 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, over a seven-day period.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told reporters Wednesday that county officials “don’t think there’s any question” the county will hit 85%. It’s just a matter of when, based on how quickly the county and private providers can get more vaccine doses, and how fast they can distribute the doses to the community. 

Stoddard and James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, said that having 5- to 11-year-olds getting vaccinated has encouraged people in older age groups to get vaccinated, too, which should also increase the percentage. 

Bridgers said he learned this based on a conversation he had with Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, who saw an older resident got their first dose at a county-run clinic this past weekend after seeing kids do the same. 

It’s still unclear how many vaccine doses the county and private providers will receive for 5- to 11-year-olds later this week, Bridgers said. Previously, the county received about 13,200 doses for children and hospitals, pediatricians and other health care settings in the county received 26,700 doses.

Bridgers and other officials said they sometimes have to wait to schedule appointments for 5- to 11-year-olds to ensure they have enough doses of vaccine.   

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com