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Hogan urges Marylanders to get booster vaccinations

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland officials are encouraging those eligible for COVID-19 booster doses to get one, citing an increased evidence of waning immunity.

As many as three in 10 virus-related deaths in the state since September are now among those who are fully vaccinated. State officials said the waning immunity underscores the need for those who are eligible for a booster to get one as soon as possible.

“From day one of the crisis our focus has always been on preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “These vaccines have all proven to be extremely effective at this.”

“However, the data we have now collected clearly does show that the level of protection does wane over time beginning really after five or six months. Especially for those who are immunocompromised or they have (underlying conditions) and are the most vulnerable.”

More than 3 million eligible Marylanders are fully vaccinated — defined as  being two weeks out from the one dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

An additional 280,000 booster shots have also been administered to some of the roughly 1.4 million who are eligible for one in the state.

State officials have added a portal to Maryland’s COVID-19 website to help people determine if they are eligible for a booster.

Hogan said the first step is as easy as looking at a vaccination card.

“If you received your second (Pfizer or Moderna) dose six months ago or more, you may qualify for one of the approved categories,” said Hogan.

Those categories include: anyone at least 65 years old; people 18 or older who have an underlying medical condition; anyone 18 or older who works in a high-risk job.

People eligible for a booster can “mix and match” vaccines, receiving any of the three available as a booster. State officials said they would make no recommendations on which vaccine is best.

Those who are fully vaccinated still have a much greater chance than those who have not been inoculated of fighting off the virus as well as avoiding severe complications, including hospitalization and death.

Maryland in recent weeks has followed national trends in declining infections, positivity rates, cases per 100,000 people and hospitalizations.

Maryland’s case rate has dropped 39% in recent weeks. The state’s positivity rate has decreased 37% over the last two months. Hospitalizations are down 28%.

But Hogan said the number of post-vaccination infections and deaths has been rising since May.

Officials now say that fully vaccinated people are making up a larger percentage of confirmed COVID deaths in the state in recent weeks.

“The vast majority of these deaths are linked to underlying conditions and comorbidities, which are not limited to severe and terminal illness,” said Hogan. “In fact, more than half of our COVID deaths last month are linked to hypertension and diabetes.”

Last week, Dr. Robert Redfield, a special adviser to Hogan on the pandemic, told Fox News that fully vaccinated people made up 40% of COVID deaths since September.

Hogan, speaking to the press on Monday, said Redfield erred on the report.

“That number was not quite accurate,” said Hogan. “It’s somewhere closer to 30, I think just under 30% — not 40.”

“Over time, the powerful protection that vaccines have given us, including against the delta and other variants, will naturally wane,” said Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader. “This in no way means you are no longer protected because you are. What it does mean is that you may need a booster shot to maintain your immunity. Many of us are now at that stage.”

Hogan told reporters that the roughly 14% of the eligible population that is not vaccinated — about 785,000 people — are responsible for the bulk of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

“When we get to 100% of the people vaccinated, every single hospitalization and death will be people who have already been vaccinated but have waning immunity but haven’t gotten a booster,” Hogan said.

In addition to providing boosters, the state is now preparing to vaccinate as many as 515,000 children ages 5-11 who could soon become eligible for a shot. Authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected as early as next week.

The state is expecting an initial 180,000 doses. Those shots will be pre-positioned around the state in the coming days for use in school-based clinics, doctor’s offices and other locations around the state.

“The same day we get the approval, we’ll start,” said Hogan.


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