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Anne Arundel moving to Phase 1B; Hogan announces accelerated state vaccine rollout, cautions supply is needed

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Thursday the county will move into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations next week, an acceleration of the schedule announced just days before.

The news came ahead of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement Thursday that the state will begin vaccinating educators, assisted living residents and all Marylanders age 75 or older as well as accelerate the timeline for Phase 1C, which includes residents age 65 through 74, essential government workers, mail carriers, food production workers and grocery store employees.

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Beginning Jan. 25, jurisdictions across the state can move into 1C if they have enough vaccine, Hogan said. But with state distribution outpacing supply, vaccinations will depend mainly on the number of doses available to the county.

“Not everybody is going to get an appointment until we have enough vaccines,” Hogan said. “And we do not have enough vaccines.”

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The state will allow for flexibility at the local level, Hogan said, meaning counties can vaccinate at their pace, as long as jurisdictions continue to prioritize the elderly and the state’s most vulnerable residents.

The county health department, with the aid of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, will launch Phase 1B Monday and begin vaccinating county residents older than 75, teachers, child care professionals and those living and working in congregate housing, Pittman said.

Pittman tweeted the county will explain how the vaccinations will be scheduled and administered today.

Anne Arundel County has so far gotten a maximum of 5,000 vaccine doses a week, and health officials expect to get a similar amount as the weeks go on. For the next few weeks, the county is focused on those age 75 and over, said Chris Trumbauer, a top aide to Pittman.

Earlier this week, officials predicted phase 1B would begin sometime in February, dependent on a steady supply of vaccines from the federal government. But since the briefing, county officials have heard increasing concern from constituents eager for residents over 75-years-old to get the vaccine.

County health officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said Tuesday the county has thus far received 12,600 vaccines. It has administered 5,931, relying mostly on health and fire department employees diverted from their typical job to help with the effort. Right now, the county can administer about 5,000 vaccines a week but hopes to hire 120 new employees to boost that number to 10,000.

Hogan has activated the Maryland National Guard to assist with vaccination efforts and partner with private providers to set up clinics. Anne Arundel County has requested National Guard assistance.

In addition, some Giant Food stores, Martin’s and Walmart pharmacies will offer the vaccine on Jan. 25 as part of a pilot program. Health workers with licenses from other states can now assist with vaccinations as well.

Hospitals have been responsible for vaccinating their staff, but the county coordinates shots for health department employees, first responders, corrections staff and inmates, court employees and health care workers in private practices.

Uptake among healthcare workers has been slow, Kalyanaraman said, with just 3,000 sign-ups for 5,000 vaccination appointments from a callout to 15,000 health care workers.

“Whether that’s scheduling those times, people just can’t schedule that same week or whether there’s hesitancy, we’re working to understand that,” he said. “But that’s one of the challenges that we’re confronting.”

Luminis Health, the operator of the Anne Arundel Medical Center and other hospitals statewide, has administered 36.7% of its vaccine allotment, according to the Maryland health department. The University of Maryland Medical System, which includes Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, has administered 31.5% of its vaccines.

Representatives for both hospitals have said they continue to offer vaccinations to any employees who want them. Anne Arundel Medical Center has opened vaccinations to volunteers who work with the hospital.

Health care vaccinations have picked up over the last two days, Trumbauer said, after a push by the health department to reach private practices and health care advocacy groups.

The county also heard from constituents concerned about sending children back to school if teachers were not vaccinated, Trumbauer said. The county school board was expected to decide on a reopening schedule Thursday night.

As the county moves into the next phase, health care workers and others eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1A but had not yet gotten it can still do so.

The state launched a website, covidvax.maryland.gov, where those 75 and older can locate a clinic. Those in long-term care facilities will not need to leave their homes to get the vaccine, said Rona Kramer, secretary of aging.

“The vaccines will come to you” through CVS and Walgreens, she said.

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