2021 | Bethesda Beat

What to know about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Montgomery County

Walk-up lines, open appointments will be added when fewer invitations accepted

share this

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

As the number of COVID-19 vaccination appointments increase in Montgomery County and the number of residents signing up for a dose decreases, the county is considering ways to make it easier for remaining residents to get a vaccine.

The county is beginning to see fewer vaccine appointment invitations accepted over the last week.

As of Wednesday, about 126,000 people were preregistered for an appointment in the county’s system and had not received a vaccine yet. About 47,000 of those had not received an invitation for an appointment.

According to Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the number of accepted invitations for appointment fluctuates, but is usually around 50%. It is down this week to about 25% — causing officials to have to send out four invitations for every invitation that is accepted for an appointment.

Walk-up lines and open appointments could begin to open as the public’s response to the invitations wane. Making it easier for people to sign up for a vaccine might increase interest in residents who were on the fence on whether to get it, Stoddard said during a media briefing on Wednesday.

The decrease in appointments being made could be partly a result of residents receiving vaccine doses elsewhere and not taking themselves off of the county’s preregistration list, he said.

When will the county begin offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again?

Montgomery County halted use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on April 13 after federal agencies recommended that all medical providers stop administering the one-dose vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are reviewing the J&J vaccine to determine a potential link with a few cases of blood clots.

Six cases of the rare blood clots were found in women ages 18 to 48. More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered across the nation.

The prior increases in vaccine shipments were due to an increased number of available J&J vaccines, but now the county has access to fewer vaccines because of the review. With fewer vaccines, there are fewer available appointments, which in turn, causes the timeline for reaching higher levels of vaccination to be pushed down the road .

The county received 7,020 doses of vaccine this week. Two weeks ago, it received 10,730.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — a group of experts advising the CDC — met to discuss the J&J vaccine on April 14 and will meet again on Friday to determine whether the vaccine should continue to be used in the country.

If I received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, what signs of the rare blood clots should I look for?

According to Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, residents who received the J&J vaccine should look for several symptoms within three weeks after they received the vaccine.

Those symptoms include: severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, and/or shortness of breath.

If any of those symptoms occur, residents should report them to their health provider. Medical providers must report the symptoms to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no reported cases of the rare blood clots have been discovered among Montgomery County residents.

Who is being vaccinated?

The state, county and medical providers are vaccinating all residents age 16 and older at mass vaccination sites.

Do I need consent from a parent or guardian to receive a vaccine if I am under the age of 18?

Yes, you will need consent from a parent or guardian if you are ages 16 or 17.

If I am homebound, how can I get a vaccine?

When residents preregister through the county’s system, they are able to indicate whether they are homebound.

The county is working with a clinical partner to administer homebound vaccinations and have provided more than 630 homebound residents with vaccines so far.

How do I get to the county’s mass vaccination site if I don’t have a car?

A free Ride On Vaccination Shuttle is being offered for transportation between the Shady Grove Metro Station and the mass vaccination site at Montgomery College in Germantown.

The vaccination shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. At the Metro station, the shuttle will be at Bus Bay H.

Ride On bus Route 55 goes to the college on its run between Rockville Metro Station and Germantown Transit Center.

My spouse got an invitation for a vaccine appointment, but I didn’t. When can I get the vaccine?

According to Stoddard, the county has generally been offering on-site vaccine registration for spouses or caretakers if the doses are available that day.

How should children ages 16 and 17 sign up, since they can only receive the Pfizer vaccine?

When the county’s preregistration site pulls names for appointments each week, staff members check the list to ensure that residents ages 16 and 17 will receive an appointment for a Pfizer vaccine dose.

Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for people under age 18.

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

Six of the state mass vaccination sites allow walk-up registration and vaccination: Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury, Hagerstown Premium Outlets and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore Convention Center, and Greenbelt Metro Station.

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

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

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

Yes. 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.

How many residents have been vaccinated?

As of Thursday, 508,538 county residents, or 48.4% of the county’s total 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 322,982 county residents, or 30.7% of the population, who are fully vaccinated with a second dose or with the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

The county reports data using the total population, which includes minors under the age of 16 who are not eligible for a vaccine.

If only the eligible population is taken into consideration, about 60% of residents at least 16 years old have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

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.

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:
April 16
April 9
April 2
March 26
March 18
March 11
March 5
February 24
February 17
January 19

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