2021 | Coronavirus

What to know about the county’s mass vaccination site, vaccine phases

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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.

Photo from Montgomery County

More Montgomery County residents are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and both the federal and state governments have promised that a significant increase in vaccine doses are headed to clinic sites.

Montgomery County plans to open a vaccine site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus on Wednesday, a few days before the state plans to boost vaccines to the site on April 5, turning it into a mass vaccination site under a partnership among the state, county, Holy Cross Health and the college.

But county and state officials have both warned that not every eligible individual will be able to immediately get a vaccine dose right away. It will still take time to funnel people into appointments by priority groups.

Once an individual has preregistered, an invitation to sign up for an appointment will be sent.

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

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Where and when will the county open a mass vaccination site?

The county will initially open a vaccine site at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus on Wednesday. The site will administer about 1,500 doses a day.

The plans are for the site to become a mass vaccination site on April 5 once the supply of vaccines from the state is increased.

Dr. Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said during a media briefing on Wednesday that it has not yet been determined how the vaccine appointments would be distributed between the state and county’s separate preregistration systems.

By April 15, the site is expected to be able to administer 3,000 doses a day or about 21,000 doses each week.

If residents are interested in an appointment at the site, they should preregister with either the state or county system.

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Who is being vaccinated?

As of Monday, the county is required to vaccinate residents and workers based on the state’s vaccination phases and priority groups.

The change was prompted by an order sent to county health officers across the state by the Dennis Schrader, the acting state secretary of health.

The order stipulates that if it is not followed, the penalty carries imprisonment of up to a year and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Jurisdictions were previously allowed to decide how to prioritize groups on their own.

Under those guidelines, residents and workers in Phases 1A, 1B, 1C, and 2A are eligible to be vaccinated.

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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

Not open for appointments yet:
● Phase 2B (open on Tuesday): residents with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness
● 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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Why did the state order the counties to align with its vaccine phases?

County officials said they were not told beforehand that the order would be coming down from the state to align with the state’s vaccine phases.

Some county officials thought aligning with the state’s phases would negatively affect equitable distribution of the vaccine, while others thought that it would cause less confusion for residents who had to keep up with different eligibility in the phases.

Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, wrote in an email Tuesday that the state’s order “formalizes the state’s distribution plan to comply with the federal directive to broaden eligibility and make all adults eligible by May 1.”

Hogan has announced that all Maryland residents age 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination no later than April 27.

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Where are the rest of the mass vaccination sites in the state? Where will the new sites be and when will they open?

Maryland has already opened six mass vaccination sites but Hogan announced an additional six that will be opening over the coming weeks.

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 (to open as county site on Wednesday, mass vaccination site on April 5)
● Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County by April 5
● Anne Arundel County by April 12
● Frederick County by April 12
● Howard County by the end of April
● Harford County by the end of April

The locations for most of the new sites have not been announced yet.

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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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Is the County Council considering lifting any restrictions?

On Friday, the County Council, sitting as the Board of Health, will consider allowing spectators at sporting events, starting April 2.

A public hearing and vote are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday. The deadline to sign up to speak at the hearing is 11 a.m.

County Executive Marc Elrich recommended changes to allow two spectators per participating athlete up to a maximum of 50 spectators.

Spectators would be allowed at events if:
● The site has a barrier to delineate the area for spectators from the area for the participating athletes and coaches
● The area for the spectators is large enough to provide for social distancing between all spectators from different households
● All spectators wear face coverings and practice social distancing of at least six feet

More than 50 spectators could be allowed if sports organizations and schools submitted a COVID Protocol Plan to Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, or his designee, and it was found to provide reasonable safety.

If approved, the changes would go into effect at 5 p.m. on April 2.

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Can you choose which vaccine is administered to you?

Residents and workers can’t choose which vaccine is administered to them, 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, 292,340 county residents, or 27.8% 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 150,188 residents, or 14.3% 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 else 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 here.

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 18 Q&A
March 11 Q&A
March 5 Q&A
February 24 Q&A
February 17
January 19 Q&A

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