By CALLAN TANSILL-SUDDATH
Capital News Service
SILVER SPRING, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced the opening of six state-run mass vaccination sites and new partnerships with retail pharmacies to provide vaccines.
“By the end of the week, hundreds of Maryland National Guard members who have been in Washington protecting our nation’s capital will be immediately reassigned to help plan, build and launch these mass vaccination sites,” Hogan, R, said.
Six Flags America in Prince George’s County and the Baltimore Convention Center will begin providing vaccinations by Feb. 5, Hogan said.
M&T Bank Stadium will follow suit when the state secures more doses.
Maryland entered phase 1C of vaccination distribution Monday, expanding eligibility to residents 65 and older as well as to some other essential workers — despite persistent widespread issues with dosage distribution and appointment access.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, 396,661 vaccines have been administered, roughly 59.4% of the total number of doses — 667,275, according to the health department — distributed to providers.
During the inaugural meeting of a state Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup on Monday, Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore County, said he is concerned about the number of constituents — namely teachers — who have yet to receive vaccines despite being part of group 1B.
“It opens up a huge number of people who are competing all together to try to get these very limited vaccines,” Lam said.
“By opening up 1C and adding another 700,000 people to the mix, it is only making it harder for these teachers who are in 1B to get through this process.”
Hogan last week announced he was encouraging all school districts in the state to reopen by March 1.
On Tuesday, Hogan said he had left it to each jurisdiction to determine how to use its vaccinations.
He and the state health secretary said federal officials pressured state leaders to open vaccinations to more people, despite a slim number of vaccines provided to states.
“My preference, and I think everybody’s preference, would have been to keep to 1B for a little while; the federal government forced our hand last week,” Maryland’s Acting Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader told lawmakers Monday.
Hogan said the health department is trying to strike a balance between supply and demand, “For the first three, four weeks, everybody was complaining that we had too many and not enough people were taking it.”
“The CDC and the federal government — both the Trump administration and Biden administration— said you need to open it up to more groups; they both specifically said to open it up to phase 1B and 1C.”
Schrader on Monday said the Department of Health is currently “very carefully building the infrastructure so that as we get more doses, and we’re hoping by the spring and summer, we’ll see a very large increase” in the surplus of vaccines.
Schrader also said it will take “a number of weeks to catch up with the eligible population we have now.”
Hogan said he thinks different forthcoming vaccines will have a tremendous effect on Maryland’s vaccination efforts.
A vaccine in the approval pipeline from Johnson & Johnson, specifically, could be a “game-changer,” said Dr. David Marcozzi, the COVID-19 incident commander with the University of Maryland Medical System.
This “vaccine is a single dose shot with less cold … storage requirements,” Marcozzi said Tuesday, and could see regulatory approval in a few weeks.
“Once the FDA approves this or other vaccines, it will improve vaccine availability and greatly assist our vaccination efforts,” Marcozzi said.
Hogan also said 825 Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps members have been deployed to 11 jurisdictions to help facilitate the delivery of vaccines.
On Tuesday morning, there were 344,62o confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland; an increase of 1,482 over a 24-hour period. There is a 6.64% positive test rate statewide, according to the Department of Health, and at least 6,788 people have died.