Approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12-15 moves Montgomery County closer to the third and final phase of its reopening plan. Once 50% of residents are fully vaccinated, some of the toughest local restrictions in Maryland will be lifted.
“We expect to hit the 50% threshold by the end of this week or early next week and that would trigger a two week period for full vaccination needed to move to phase 3,” County Executive Mark Elrich said.
The county has been leaning on its supply of the Moderna vaccine in anticipation of a rush on those Pfizer doses.
With Wednesday’s approval, the county can start vaccinating kids as early as this week. Work is already being done to set up youth-specific vaccine clinics.
“This is a much smaller population and we’ve got a much bigger amount of vaccine this time around, and so we do not expect to have to pick and choose who will get the vaccine this time around," Dr. Earl Stoddard from the Montgomery County Department of Human Services said.
Some parents jumped the gun and brought their children to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday only to be turned away.
Kimatni Rawlins said his 14-year-old is eager to get vaccinated ahead of the summer and next school year.
“We feel as though the vaccine will offer that protection needed, because it’s not just about her. It’s about spreading it as well,” Ralwins said.
Montgomery County parents do not have to be there while their children are vaccinated, but they do have to provide consent and show proof that they fall into the age range.
There are approximately 35,000-40,000 12-to-15-year-olds in Montgomery County. Pediatrician Sarah Schaffer Deroo said vaccinating teenagers is critical to stopping the spread of the virus.
“Adolescents are key to achieving herd immunity and we hope that they can be a model for vaccinating younger children once a vaccine is approved,” Schaffer-Deroo said.
While reaching the 50% threshold would bring more normalcy back to Montgomery County, officials warn it won't spell the end of the pandemic.
“If 60% of the population is vaccinated, that is 400,000 people in Montgomery County not vaccinated,” Elrich said.
“We will still continue, at least for the short term, to have to keep measures in place or keep our surveillance in place at a minimum to track new infections,” Dr. Travis Gayles, the Montgomery County Health Officer, said.