Maryland will focus its initial COVID-19 vaccinations on hospital-based health care workers, residents of nursing homes and first responders in the first phase expected to arrive as soon as next week, state officials said Tuesday.
The state is expected to receive 155,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and distribution could begin as early as next week for the Pfizer vaccine and later this month for the Moderna vaccine. That initial figure includes 50,700 Pfizer doses and 104,300 Moderna doses.
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“As we receive more vaccine in the weeks and the months to come we will continue to expand the groups who are able to access vaccine, including people in high risk categories for severe COVID-19 such as those with chronic pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease or heart conditions and also adults in other congregate settings," said Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy secretary of Maryland’s health department.
State health officials issued an emergency order to expand the scope of practice so that any licensed health care provider — including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and pharmacists — can administer the COVID-19 vaccine with appropriate training and supervision.
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Also on Tuesday, U.S. regulators released their first scientific evaluation of Pfizer’s vaccine and confirmed it offers strong protection. That sets the stage for the government to approve the biggest vaccination effort in the nation’s history.
The analysis by Food and Drug Administration scientists comes ahead of a Thursday meeting where the agency’s independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans. A final FDA decision and the first shots could follow within just days.
To help boost confidence in the safety of the vaccine among the public, Gov. Larry Hogan said he and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will be vaccinated publicly as part of a statewide outreach campaign to urge residents to get vaccinated. The campaign will work with people trusted in communities to address vaccine hesitancy, including among minority populations, the governor's office said.
Hogan and health officials spoke at a news conference as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. The governor said, “It is clear that our worst days of this pandemic are still yet to come in the weeks and months ahead.”
On Friday, the state hit a record number of confirmed cases, and Maryland has had 35 straight days of more than 1,000 cases. On Tuesday, the state reported more than 50 deaths in one day for the first time since May 22. Maryland also has 1,663 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. That's the most since May 9.
“We still don’t believe we’re at the peak," Hogan said. “We think that’s coming in the weeks and potentially the months ahead.”
Chan said the state is dividing the initial allocation of vaccine to groups among the most at risk. As vaccine becomes more available, the distribution plan calls for sending it to local health departments to make it available to first responders. There are an estimated 800,000 people in the first phase of distribution, Chan said.
Bryan Mroz, an assistant secretary at the health department, said Maryland will use ImmuNet, the state’s immunization information system to order vaccines. Providers will place orders in ImmuNet, and the orders will go to the federal government, which will distribute doses directly to providers. ImmuNet has been in use in the state for more than 15 years to store records of vaccines distributed in Maryland.
“We have recently enhanced the capabilities and the capacity of ImmuNet to handle the additional information expected with the COVID pandemic,” Mroz said.