With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly, Gov. Larry Hogan declared Tuesday the cavalry is on the way.
At an afternoon press conference from the State House, Hogan and some of the state's top medical leaders outlined plans to distribute the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, with the first doses possibly arriving in Maryland as soon as Monday.
Front-line health care workers and the residents and staff of nursing homes would be first in line to receive the initial batch of 155,000 doses from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, which have been shown through clinical trials to be more than 94 percent effective and could receive emergency-use authorization from the FDA later this week.
Hogan said the state would continue to receive more vaccine each successive week, and as many as 300,000 doses could be administered in the state by the end of the year.
But it will take months before the vaccine is widely available to the general public.
It will be administered in two doses, with the booster shot coming three weeks later for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks later for Moderna's. Hogan said the state will have enough supply to account for both doses.
After front-line health providers and nursing home staff and residents receive shots, first responders, essential workers and those most at risk to severe illness will be next in line.
The Maryland Department of Health issued an emergency order Tuesday that allows any licensed health care provider with the proper training and supervision to administer the vaccine. That includes doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists.
"This is by far the most massive undertaking by far of this pandemic," Hogan (R) said.
The vaccine news was delivered on a day when Maryland reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 infections for the eighth consecutive day, including a record spike of 3,792 cases last Friday.
Maryland reported more than 50 deaths Tuesday for the first time since May 22 and its highest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations (1,653) since May 9. The number of patients in intensive care (396) reached its highest level since June 7.
Elected leaders expect the numbers to get worse over the duration of the holiday season.
"It's critical we continue to fight this virus with everything we've got," Hogan said.
Clinical trials have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 in nearly all cases and with few or no side effects.
The most common side effects were experienced one or two days after receiving the shot, according to Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy secretary for public health at the Maryland Department of Health. They included mild fever, headaches, pain at the site of the injection, as well as muscle and joint aches.
"This shows the vaccine is working," Chan said of the side effects. "The body's immune [system] was responding to be able to produce protective antibodies that would ultimately protect that individual from getting the disease itself."
Chan said it's unclear how long immunity provided from the vaccines will last and whether it is safe for children. Clinical trials only involved adults, and more testing will be necessary to determine whether it is safe for young kids.
It is also unclear whether people will need to continue to get immunized year after year, Chan said.
"Our vaccination effort will continue until all Marylanders that want a vaccine receive it," she said.
In order to improve public confidence in the vaccine, Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford pledged to receive their shots publicly.
The Frederick County Health Department is currently conducting an anonymous survey that asks people if they intend to receive the vaccine. Results could be announced sometime next week.
"We are going to engage people in every community to try and help with that convincing [about safety]," Hogan said. "We have got to convince people to do it or we are not going to be able to stop the spread."
Hogan said he had no intention of requiring anyone to take the vaccine.
"But we are going to do everything we can to encourage," he said.