virus-dmv

Anna DaSilva, a medical clinic supervisor, receives her shot on Dec. 30 in Silver Spring as Montgomery County administered 4,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to health care workers and first responders.

Faced with a sluggish coronavirus vaccination pace, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday he will deploy the state’s National Guard to hasten local health departments’ inoculation of medical workers, while threatening to take away unused vaccines from hospitals slow to administer them.

The governor also said he may withhold additional doses from any hospital, contractor, pharmacy or health department that has not used 75 percent of its supply.

“No doses should be sitting in freezers while others are waiting,” Hogan, a Republican, said during a news conference. “Either use the doses you have been allocated or they will be redirected.”

State data shows only 34 percent of more than 163,000 doses sent to Maryland hospitals have been used. One hospital system, Adventist HealthCare, has used less than 16 percent. Pharmacies charged with inoculating nursing home residents have used less than 14 percent of their vaccines.

Hogan said the state will not wait for all health-care workers or nursing home staff to get vaccinated before moving to the next priority group. He laid out the most detailed timeline yet for when others could receive vaccinations.

Teachers and developmentally disabled people who live in group homes were moved into the next eligible group, with a population of 860,000 people that also includes people age 75 and over and child-care workers.

Dozens of group homes in Maryland have experienced severe outbreaks of the virus. Advocates, providers and families of residents had pushed since early December for Hogan to prioritize vaccinating group home workers and residents.

Hogan estimated that group could begin receiving vaccinations at the end of January.

The next group, expected to get vaccines in early March, includes people over 65 and those deemed essential workers, such as grocery store employees.

The governor noted progress in the state’s distribution of vaccines, but cautioned that the rollout will take months, with just 30 percent of the state’s population — about 1.8 million people — likely to be inoculated by the end of May.

Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said 200 guardsmen will be deployed in 14 teams to expedite vaccinations at local health departments, which are responsible for inoculating first responders, corrections officers and medical personnel who don’t work in hospitals.

While some local health departments, such as in Montgomery, Howard and Caroline counties, have distributed more than 80 percent of their vaccines, many have struggled. Nine of the state’s 24 jurisdictions have distributed less than 10 percent. Prince George’s has given out just 4.3 percent of its allocation, the third-lowest rate in the state.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, plans to discuss the vaccine distribution in his state during a Wednesday news conference.

Vaccine dissemination moved forward across the region Tuesday as the seven-day rolling average of new infections across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia stood at 7,421 — the third consecutive record-setting day.

The city of Baltimore also announced new vaccination plans Tuesday, when Mayor Brandon Scott, a Democrat, said the state’s largest city will begin this week to vaccinate first responders and health-care workers not affiliated with hospitals. The city’s health department has the second-lowest vaccination deployment in the state.

The city received 2,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine from state officials last week that it plans to deploy. Health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said officials are unsure of how many additional doses the city will receive through next week.

“There’s still a very limited supply,” she said, urging members of the public to remain patient.

In Maryland, state data shows the Baltimore region has vaccinated 1.5 percent of its population, compared to a 0.7 percent vaccination rate in the state’s Washington suburbs.

Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles said late Monday the discrepancy might be because more Montgomery health-care workers have been vaccinated in the District or other jurisdictions, but haven’t yet reported it to the state health department. He also acknowledged that at hospitals, which received the first batches of the vaccine from the federal government, not everyone who is eligible has agreed to take the vaccine.

“If we’re honest, there are some folks who are still taking a wait-and-see approach,” he said.

While hospitals have received doses directly from the federal government, local governments have had to wait for allotments from state authorities. This is “an additional layer of time” in the distribution process, Gayles said. The county, for example, only learned Saturday it would be receiving a new batch of doses Tuesday.

“We’re at the mercy of getting that information from the state and the state is at the mercy of getting the information from the federal government,” he said. “It’s our biggest obstacle.”

Of the 4,300 doses that Montgomery has received, 86 percent had been administered as of Monday night, Gayles said. It’s among the highest distribution rates in the state. The county has planned six more vaccine clinics to administer the new batches, but with more than 50,000 people in the county’s top priority group, it will be some time before vaccinations begin for those in the next category, which includes people 75 and older.

Gayles said the county is not aware of vaccines expiring because of a lack of demand. In such a situation, the health department has told pharmacies to inform county officials, who would then identify a cohort of priority group members to receive the vaccine.

The greater Washington region reported 6,595 new infections and 118 virus-related fatalities Tuesday. The District had 262 new cases and four deaths; Virginia had 4,377 cases and 59 deaths; and Maryland had 1,956 cases and 55 deaths.

Virus-related hospitalizations were up 12 percent from last week in the District, up 8 percent from last week in Virginia, and up 3 percent from last week in Maryland, according to The Washington Post’s tracking of data.

The District has administered 16,989 of the 40,075 doses delivered, according to city data that includes reports from 58 percent of providers. Virginia has administered 103,083 doses and Maryland has administered 76,916 doses.

(1) comment

Dwasserba

'“If we’re honest, there are some folks who are still taking a wait-and-see approach,' he said." Fine! NEXT!

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