Gov. Larry Hogan expressed concern about the lagging pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout at a Tuesday press conference and then announced a series of actions through executive order designed to accelerate its pace across Maryland.
Addressing reporting lags with vaccine data, Hogan said all vaccine providers will need to report data to the state's tracking system, ImmuNet, within 24 hours of administration. The data is then reported by the state of the Maryland Department of Health's website.
Hogan also announced that any provider that had not administered at least 75 percent of their first batch of vaccines might get future shipments reduced until they can prove that can distribute it more efficiently.
At an evening news conference at the State House, Hogan said his administration was "working hard" to resolve any bottlenecks or issues with the vaccine rollout and cautioned this was only the beginning of a very long process.
"Distributing and administering vaccines throughout 2021 will be without question the greatest peacetime undertaking in American history, and it will be a massive, all-hands-on-deck ongoing operation involving the federal, state and local governments and the private sector," he said.
Overall, Maryland has administered 76,916 of the 270,150 vaccines that have been distributed across the state as of Tuesday, according to the Maryland Department of Health. That is right in line with the national rate of 28.4 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
Hogan said that Maryland is receiving about 72,000 doses per week, or roughly 10,000 per day, from the federal government, all of which is shipped directly to hospitals, health departments and providers with federal contracts, such as CVS and Walgreens, across the state.
He hopes the size and frequency of those shipments will ramp up in the coming weeks. At the current pace, Maryland will have administered about 1.8 million vaccines by the end of May, which represents roughly 30 percent of the population.
"I want to assure the people of Maryland that we are going to leverage every resource to get more shots into more arms as quickly as we possibly can, in a safe and orderly way," he said.
To help speed up the process, Hogan said the Maryland National Guard will begin dispatching emergency support teams Wednesday to assist local health departments with their vaccination clinics and provide logistical support.
He also said that 700 volunteers were ready to assist with vaccine administration through the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps, and that the state was ready to help hospitals with supplies, staff and logistical support.
In revised guidance on the vaccine timeline, all state residents 75 and older will be able to get the vaccine in Phase 1B of the rollout, which could begin by the end of January, according to Hogan. The group also includes special needs group homes, high-risk prison inmates, developmentally disabled populations, teachers, child care and education staff and those involved in the "continuity of government."
By early March, the state hopes to move into Phase 1C, which was expanded to include state residents between the ages of 65-74 and essential workers in grocery stores, public transit, agriculture production and manufacturing.
"In the coming days and weeks, we will have more vaccine," said Dr. Jinlene Chan, the acting deputy health secretary for the Maryland Department of Health.
Maryland reported 289,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, including 12,190 in Frederick County. That does not yet include a case the new variant strain of the coronavirus that was discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa that is said to transmit much more easily.
Through, state health officials said there could be undetected cases of the new strain in Maryland.
"It is possible that because of travel, because of other means of spread that the variant is here in Maryland," Chan said. "But we are staying extremely vigilant."