Confident in the increasing supply of COVID-19 vaccine Maryland is receiving from the federal government, Gov. Larry Hogan dramatically accelerated the state's vaccine rollout Monday, declaring that anyone 16 or older will be eligible to receive a shot starting Tuesday at mass vaccination sites.
The mass vaccination sites at the Hagerstown Premium Outlets and the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury will be open for people to walk up without an appointment Tuesday, Hogan said.
And, by next Monday, all vaccine providers will be required by the state to offer appointments and vaccinate anyone who is 16 or older. Anyone 16 or 17 will have to use a provider offering the Pfizer vaccine since it is the only one authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for people under 18 so far.
These announcements mark a significant acceleration of Maryland's vaccine rollout, as the state was recording record numbers of daily vaccinations at regular intervals last week.
On Monday, Maryland was still in Phase 2B of its vaccination effort, which included anyone 16 or older with underlying health issues. The general population of those 16 or older was not scheduled to become eligible to receive the vaccine until April 27.
"I want to stress that even though we are opening up eligibility for everyone, that does not mean that everyone will immediately be able to get an appointment," Hogan (R) said Monday in a late-afternoon press conference from the state house. "But with the supply of doses increasing over the next month or so, a vaccine should be available for everyone who wants one."
The Frederick County Health Department had been in lock-step with the state's eligibility guidelines in recent weeks. But it's unclear what sort of ripple effect Hogan's announcement will have locally.
Last week, the health department received 2,500 first doses of vaccine, which was a 500-dose increase from the previous week but probably far short of the allotment the county would need if anyone 16 or older was eligible to receive the vaccine.
Following Hogan's press conference Monday, County Executive Jan Gardner said she made phone calls to the state "to try and gather the information we need to operate smoothly in the upcoming weeks."
Gardner (D) said she did not yet know how many doses of vaccine the county will be allocated next week, and she might not know until Friday. She also was unsure how much state staff will be on hand to assist the county with the anticipated allotment of additional doses.
Although, she has been assured that "we will get the information and the support we need to open at a higher capacity sometime next week," she said.
"It is a work in progress," she said.
Hogan announced last week that a mass vaccination site is scheduled to open at Frederick Community College beginning next week.
The county health department already operates a vaccine clinic at FCC, and it's unclear how it will fit into the state's plans for a mass vaccination site there.
Gardner indicated last week that plans are being finalized for a fourth county-run vaccine clinic, joining the ones at Scott Key Center, Butterfly Ridge Elementary School and FCC.
"We do have a long list of people who have signed vaccine interest forms to be put into a queue for a vaccination appointment, and we would certainly like to vaccinate the people who have been waiting, as a priority," she said.
Maryland has administered almost 3 million doses of vaccine so far. On Saturday, the state set another single-day record by administering more than 78,000 shots. Hogan said the state, which is now averaging more than 61,000 shots per day, has the capacity to be doing 100,000 per day.
In Frederick County, more than 30 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while more than 20 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Hogan said anyone who wants a vaccine should be able to receive one by the end of May.
"Every day, our averages are going up. We are ahead of most other states," he said. "I am really pleased with our progress."