Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that Maryland would be expanding the distribution of coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks.
Starting Monday, Jan. 18, Maryland will move into phase 1B of its vaccination plan. That group includes those in assisted living and other congregate settings; all Marylanders over age 75; and teachers and support staff and child care providers.
Hogan said the state would begin phase 1C on Monday, Jan. 25. That includes all Marylanders over the age 65 and other essential workers.
While Hogan lauded his administration’s efforts to get vaccines to hospitals and health departments, he said the number of allocated doses remains low. The governor blamed vaccine hesitancy.
“It’s a huge concern,” said Hogan. “We knew there was certain reluctance in certain communities that we had to work on, and we’re about to launch a major marketing campaign with lots of people to be role models to convince people to use the vaccine.”
As of Thursday, Maryland had deployed 547,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which represented 99.6% of the doses allocated to the state by the federal government.
Not all of those doses have been administered.
Local health departments have administered a little more than 41% of the 137,425 doses allotted.
Local hospitals received 320,200 doses but administered about 35%.
Walgreens and CVS, which are contracted to hold vaccination clinics in nursing homes, are reporting a completion rate of 94% and 76% of their scheduled clinics. However, those two pharmacies have only used about 29% of their allotments.
“The nursing homes are only 70% full, and a lot of people did not want to take the vaccine,” said Hogan. “It’s not mandatory, and so they have more doses left over.”
Hogan said those doses will be used in assisted living and other congregate living facilities.
“They’re going to use every one of them. It’s just going to be at different locations,” Hogan said. “Not one of them is every going to go to waste. We had enough for every single person, and if they don’t want them we’re going to move to the next group.”
Hogan and other state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, have all said they will take the vaccine publicly when made available to them. So far none of them have, citing concerns about jumping the line in front of others.
Hogan, speaking Thursday night, said he recognizes there may be a value to being vaccinated now as part of the effort to encourage more people to follow suit.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Hogan said. “I think we will do that. I said first the hospitals and the nursing homes, which we did. Now we’re opening it up to five or six other groups. We haven’t got an exact time but we will do that … I’m definitely going to do it sometime soon, just haven’t scheduled it yet.”
The state has begun a partnership with Walmart and Giant to expand access to the vaccine at locations across the state, Hogan said. CVS and Walgreens have been the primary partners in working with the current vaccination phase.
Hogan also announced steps to speed up the vaccination distribution. Facilities that have not administered at least 75% of their first allocation of the vaccine may have their allotted doses reduced until they can prove their ability to meet capacity. Facilities with extra doses will also be required to notify local health departments so that those doses can be reallocated to priority populations.
Hogan said the state will not wait to vaccinate all members of one group before moving on to the next group. Members of any previous group will be eligible to be vaccinated in the later phases.
“We want to stress to all the vaccination providers that as part of our, what we call a Southwest Airlines distribution model, they do not need to finish all of the people in one group before moving on to the next one,” Hogan said. “Our primary goal is for them to get more shots in the arms of more people in our vulnerable populations as quickly as they can.”
The state is launching a website, covidvax.maryland.gov, that will provide information on the vaccine rollout and how residents can schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.
Part of that effort will include pilot programs at 22 Giant pharmacy locations, three Martin’s locations in Washington and Allegany Counties, and 10 Walmarts, mostly in western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. The state so far has not made wider use of pharmacies, as has been done in other states such as Virginia, which announced today it is moving into phase two of the CDC-recommended vaccination plan.
Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the governor, said more pharmacies would be utilized for vaccinations as supplies increase.
“We are administering doses at faster rate than Virginia, so I’m not sure they are a model,” Ricci said.
Hogan stressed that the states are relying on the federal government for the supply of vaccines. Maryland expects to receive about 10,000 doses per day from the federal government, he said. That would mean about 1.8 million doses, so about 30% of the state’s population could be vaccinated by the end of May, according to state health officials.
“We are far outpacing that supply,” Hogan said. “We’re doing, like 15(,000), 16,000 vaccinations a day. We only get 10,000 a day from the federal government. We have to make sure we have those second doses or we’re in big trouble.”