ANNAPOLIS — All Marylanders who want a coronavirus vaccine are now eligible for a vaccination.
The announcement Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan comes less than a week after he hinted at the possibility. The decision makes all Marylanders eligible in advance of President Joe Biden’s order for states to fully open up vaccinations by May 1.
“We’re now able to move more quickly because we’re getting that increased supply and we’ve built the infrastructure,” said Hogan. We saw this coming, which is why we started the preregistration last week to get ready and geared up.”
The decision accelerates the final two phases that initially were to open up on April 13 and 27, respectively.
Anyone 16 and older is now eligible for an appointment at any state mass vaccination site beginning Tuesday. Those who are 16 and 17 will be restricted, however, to locations offering the Pfizer vaccine, which is approved for those age groups.
Hogan announced the lifting of most restrictions for businesses in early March. Since then the state has seen a more than 60% increase in the average number of daily cases, including more than 1,600 on Saturday. The rolling seven-day average of daily cases is now above 1,300 — a figure not seen since early February.
Hospitalizations, positivity rates and the per-capita rate of infections is also climbing.
“The best way to stop a run from scoring is to get the batter out before he gets on base,” said Dr. Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. “No baserunners means no runs can score. If COVID-19 can’t get on base, can’t score by going from one person to another, we win and the virus loses.”
The governor noted that the state is seeing more younger people hospitalized as a result of the virus.
“Getting more people, younger people, vaccinated faster is certainly a goal,” said Hogan. “We want to make sure people take it seriously. Some younger people sometimes thought they were bulletproof and they didn’t have to worry about it, but now we’re seeing they really do need to worry about it.”
Appointments open up at other private providers, including pharmacies around the state, a week later.
“I want to stress that even though we are opening up eligibility for everyone, that does not mean everyone will be able to immediately get an appointment,” Hogan said. “But with the supplies increasing over the next month or so a vaccine should be available for everyone who wants one.
The state will also open another no-appointment line at the Hagerstown site following the success of a similar operation in Salisbury.
The state recently vaccinated 75,000 people in one day, and state daily vaccination averages are going up, the governor said.
“We have to get more supply from the feds to hit the magic 100,000-a-day number that our system can handle, but we don’t have enough vaccines,” said Hogan.
Despite opening appointments to all Marylanders, the state will still prioritize appointments for people in the earlier phases, people who were deemed most vulnerable to the virus.
Currently the state has vaccinated 76% of people over 65 and is moving toward 80% by the end of the week. Another 46% of adults over 18 have received at least one dose.
“It shouldn’t take us very long to get to half that population,” Hogan said. “I don’t want to make promises we can’t deliver on based on something that is not in our control, but if they (the federal government) continue to provide vaccines that they led us to believe, we should be able to finish everybody who wants one during April and May.”