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More Marylanders eligible for COVID-19 booster vaccines under Hogan order

ANNAPOLIS — More Maryland residents in congregate living facilities are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots.

Under an order from Gov. Larry Hogan, all residents of nursing homes, assisted living and residential treatment facilities and group homes for the developmentally disabled who are 65 and older are immediately eligible for booster shots. Hogan said in a Wednesday news conference that the new state policy is an expansion of current Centers For Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for booster shots.

“The [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and CDC have approved those for people that are immunocompromised, and we have studies that show that there are people in those facilities that are immunocompromised,” Hogan said. “We’re following the CDC guidance but broadening the definition.”

Hogan also announced a $3 million door-to-door push to get inoculations into the arms of some of the most under-vaccinated ZIP codes in the state.

In the news conference, Hogan signaled a growing frustration with the White House and President Joe Biden.

“Unfortunately for several weeks now, states have had to operate without clear guidance from the federal government regarding these booster shots,” Hogan said. “The limited guidance that we have received has been confusing and contradictory, and it is unclear when or how more people will become eligible.”

Hogan said the state is laying the groundwork for what will be a “statewide operation for booster shots.”

“All of the evidence makes it abundantly clear that we cannot afford to delay taking decisive action to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Hogan said.

Current guidelines from the CDC allow for a booster shot only for immunocompromised persons. The FDA could approve booster doses for other Americans later this month.

“We are fully prepared to make booster shots available to the wider population immediately upon receiving clear guidance from the federal government,” Hogan said.

The state policy makes it clear that anyone who believes they meet the CDC guidance can receive a booster shot without a doctor’s note.

“Some providers may ask you to fill out a simple form,” said Hogan, adding that no one should be turned away.

Last month, the state began testing 500 nursing home residents across the state for coronavirus antibody levels. The study focused on determining current immunity levels.

More than 60% “demonstrated some form of waning immunity over time and showed as many as one in three were particularly vulnerable,” Hogan said.

“There’s an argument about is it four, is it five, is it six, is it seven or eight months where you still have all the benefits,” the governor said. “Some people are finding out that it does start to wane after a while.”