Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday urged all eligible state residents to get COVID-19 booster shots, especially those with health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and the governor said the state will begin vaccinating children as soon as the federal government approves.
Nearly 1.4 million Maryland residents are now eligible to receive a booster, Hogan said. People who received their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna shot six months ago who are 65 and older, 18 and older with underlying conditions or 18 and older who work in high-risk settings are eligible. People who are 18 and older who received a Johnson & Johnson shot two months ago also are eligible.
“We have a robust network of vaccination providers, including pharmacies, primary care providers, mobile clinics, local health departments and community health centers, and we have both the supply and the capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one," Hogan said.
To help residents determine their eligibility for a booster, state health officials have launched a new portal on covidvax.maryland.gov where residents can enter their information and learn next steps.
The state has administered about 280,000 booster shots so far.
Key COVID-19 health metrics are improving, Dennis Schrader, the state's health secretary said, including a declining positivity rate, a drop in the case rate per 100,000 and falling hospitalizations.
Still, the need for boosters has been illustrated by data showing an increase in the share of post-vaccination infections and deaths since May, officials say. The vast majority of them have been linked to underlying conditions and comorbidities.
More than half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths over the past month were linked to hypertension and diabetes. Cancer, obesity, and chronic lung disease are other leading comorbidities among COVID-19 deaths in Maryland.
“We have plenty of supply with vaccines on hand throughout the state," Schrader said, noting that Maryland now has more than 1.8 million doses.
Hogan, a Republican, also said the state has been preparing to begin vaccinating children between the ages of 5-11 as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves it, which could be as soon as next week.
About 515,000 Maryland children will be eligible. The state already has ordered an initial 180,000 Pfizer doses to begin vaccinating children. State health officials have been working in partnership with pediatricians, pharmacies, school systems and local health departments.
Dr. Jinlene Chan, the state's deputy health secretary, said Maryland has been working closely with the Maryland chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, local health departments, pharmacies and school systems.
“We've had meetings with our local superintendents so that really we're trying to meet people where they are,” Chan said, adding that doses will be available in pediatricians' offices and primary care doctors' offices, as well as in school-based vaccine clinics and pharmacies.