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Maryland residents eligible for COVID vaccine if receiving chemo, certain other outpatient hospital treatment, officials clarify

Maryland health officials clarified Tuesday that residents with certain health conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID-19 infections are eligible for the vaccine if they are receiving outpatient hospital treatment.

Patients who fall into the high-risk categories the state identified under Phase 1C may be able to be vaccinated if they receive treatment at a hospital-based office, said Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy health secretary. The Department of Health had previously said that patients would need to be hospitalized with a listed condition in order to be eligible for inoculation.

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That list includes cancer patients in active treatment, end-stage renal disease patients requiring hemodialysis, COPD patients, solid organ transplant recipients, sickle cell disease patients and diabetic patients.

Chan said cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, for example, would be able to get vaccinated during treatment at a hospital or hospital-connected facility.

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The goal is to reach the sickest patients through existing vaccine pipelines, Chan said, but for the most part, “individuals who have underlying conditions will be in Phase 2.”

The news that hospitalization was a prerequisite for eligibility took some by surprise. When Gov. Larry Hogan initially announced the move, he simply said vaccinations for “severely immunocompromised” people could begin Feb. 1, and that they would be administered through “hospital-based providers.”

As the state’s vaccination priority list grows, Marylanders continue to report difficulty finding appointments for shots. The state’s system is decentralized, and eligible people can turn to the state, their county, their health provider or some pharmacies for vaccines. The state is also preparing to launch mass vaccination sites.

But when asked Monday whether Marylanders should sign up for any waitlist they can find, Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader hesitated.

“I’d have to think about that question,” he said.

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