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Hogan says Maryland may receive first vaccines next week

More than 50,000 Marylanders in critical positions could be the first to receive vaccinations against the coronavirus as soon as next week.

The vaccinations, under a plan laid out by Gov. Larry Hogan and state health officials, will be prioritized so that much of the first shipment from Pfizer will go to doctors, nurses and those working with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Others, including those living in those congregate facilities, could be vaccinated soon after.

“The cavlary is coming,” said Hogan. “A vaccine is on the way, but it is absolutely critical that we continue to fight this virus with everything we’ve got, and we all need to keep doing the things we know will keep us safe.”

Under the state’s plan, health care workers and other critical first responders would be vaccinated under the first tier. The elderly, who comprise the majority of the more than 4,700 deaths in Maryland so far, would come in the next phase.

Currently, there are cases at 191 nursing homes and 132 assisted living facilities in Maryland. Hogan said the number of cases is worse than in the spring.

The third phase would include critical workers, including teachers, transit and utility workers as well as those at moderate risk for the disease and its severe complications.

Finally, vaccinations would roll out to the general public. As vaccines become more widely available, state officials said they anticipate anyone who wants a vaccination will be able to get one at a local pharmacy, urgent care facility, doctor’s office or clinics run by local health departments.

The state anticipates weekly deliveries of vaccines beginning with the Pfizer vaccine candidate, which is expected to receive FDA emergency authorization as soon as the end of this week. Under that schedule, Acting Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said, Maryland could expect a little more than 50,000 vaccinations the week of Dec’ 14.

A second candidate produced by Moderna is scheduled for FDA review and possible approval the week of Dec. 17. If approved, Maryland could receive more than 104,oo0 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week of Christmas.

Vaccines will be ordered through the federal government and shipped directly to hospitals and other facilities for distribution.

The doses would be enough to vaccinate about 155,000 of the nearly 800,000 people in the top tier of the state’s four-tier vaccination plan.

“While we expect limited availability initially we do believe that we will continue to get doses not just in the first week but in the second week and in the weeks and months to come,” said Chan.

As part of the plan, the state will use an online vaccination tracking system.

Patients will receive an initial dose of the vaccine but must get a second dose of the same vaccine weeks later. For those receiving Pfizer vaccines, a booster shot is required in 21 days. The Moderna shot requires a booster at 28 days. The tracking system will ensure the right vaccine is administered as well as provide notifications for when the next dose is required.

Hogan said he hopes for as many as 300,000 people to be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Chan, however, said the state is prepared for potential bumps in the distribution as was seen during distribution of the H1N1 flu vaccine nearly a decade ago.

“We know from our experience with H1N1 … one week we might get as much as we ordered and the next week it might not be,” said Chan. “So we’re expecting that, though it’s hard to say at this point in time what the actuality will be.”

Dr Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs administered at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (Victoria Jones/Pool via AP)

Dr Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs administered at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (Victoria Jones/Pool via AP)

State officials said they are prepared for storage requirements that come along with the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept frozen at -80 degrees. Special ultra-cold freezers bought by the state will be supplemented with special packaging developed by Pfizer. The heavily insulated containers are about the size of a suitcase and weigh 70 pounds. The cases are GPS-tracked and the temperatures are constantly monitored, according to Assistant Health Secretary Bryan Mroz.

“If we wish to store it in these shipping containers, it can last for weeks as long as we continue to reload the dry ice,” said Mroz.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate requires storage at -20 degrees, which most pharmacies and medical facilities can handle without special equipment.

The state will also begin to ramp up efforts to encourage vaccinations, especially in minority communities where skepticism runs high.

“We will communicate what we know and what we don’t know,” said Mroz, who said there are already “rumors, false theories and misinformation” circulating on social media about the vaccines.

“We ask everyone to get their information from trusted sources that are based in fact and science,” said Mroz.

Hogan said that he and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will receive a vaccination publicly as soon as one is available to them in an effort to boost public confidence.

“We’re going to be doing it ourselves but we’re going to get people in every community to try and help convince them,” said Hogan. “We’ve got to convince people to do it or we’re not going to be able to stop the spread.”

Hogan said mandating vaccinations, even for state employees, is not under consideration.

“We don’t have an intention of requiring these vaccines,” said Hogan. “We’re going to do everything we can to encourage it.”

And while the announcement of vaccinations is seen as a sign of optimism, Chan warned that it will not immediately end social distancing nor mask use.

“”I know that’s front and center on everybody’s mind,” said Chan. “The vaccine from what we know so far, will protect the person who is getting vaccinated from getting the disease but it is still important, and we believe it is still important, for everyone to wear a mask, practice safe, social distancing and hand-washing to prevent potential transfer or spread of disease to people who are unvaccinated.”

Maryland continues to see spikes in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths as the state quickly approaches the holiday season.

“It is clear that our worst days of this pandemic are yet to come in the weeks and months ahead,”said Hogan.

On Tuesday, Maryland added 2,632 new infections in the last 24 hours. The more than 18,800 infections reported this month in just a week exceed the total for September and are less than 700 fewer than in August.

On Tuesday, the state reported 50 deaths the most since 53 were reported on May 27. So far, 239 people have died in December from the virus, a total that already exceeds the total number of deaths in September and October and is eight fewer than the total for August.

The state also reported an increase of 92 total hospitalizations to 1,653 patients. That figure represents 97% of the state’s peak hospitalizations reached on April 30.

“We still don’t believe we’re at the peak,” said Hogan. “We think that’s coming in the weeks and potentially months ahead.

Last week, Hogan said all hospitals in Maryland would be required to increase capacity by 10% once the state reached a total of 8,000 patients including those admitted because of the virus. As of last week, the state was above 6,800 total patients.

Overall coronavirus hospitalizations were driven by an increase of 84 acute patients. The total of 1,257 is a new high for the pandemic in Maryland, exceeding the record set on Dec. 1.

The number of ICU patients increased by eight people to 396 patients — about 65% of the peak reached on May 10.

Typically, hospitalizations lag behind rises in cases with more severe cases appearing soon after bumps in acute patients. Deaths are a lagging indicator.

The rolling seven-day average for new daily cases decreased slightly to 2,689. The average daily cases is more than 20% higher over a week ago and that of Nov. 24.

“All of the modeling shows December and January looks pretty rough,” said Hogan.

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  1. Thanks President Trump for driving an accelerated path to a vaccine. Thanks Hogan for be a media darling during the process

  2. You wrote ““The calvary is coming,” said Hogan.” (sic). The word you want is “cavalry” not “calvary.”