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All Maryland hospitals and nursing homes will receive coronavirus vaccine within next two weeks

Dr. Michael Winters of Mount Airy was among the first Marylanders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. He is one of the University of Maryland Medical System's frontline health care workers and is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland medical school.
Dr. Michael Winters of Mount Airy was among the first Marylanders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. He is one of the University of Maryland Medical System's frontline health care workers and is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland medical school. (Courtesy Photo)

All Maryland hospitals and nursing homes are set to receive the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine in the next two weeks, state officials said Tuesday, as they urged residents to remain vigilant against the virus.

The state also is setting aside doses for local health departments to vaccinate first responders, said Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy secretary for public health services. Those clinics, too, could start within the next few weeks.

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State leaders provided the update on vaccination plans as Maryland surpassed 5,000 deaths, with 61 new fatalities reported Tuesday — the most reported in a single day since May.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan reactivated the Maryland National Guard to help with the logistics of vaccine distribution and planning, and to set up mobile clinics eventually.

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On Monday, the University of Maryland Medical Center was the first hospital in the state to report receiving the Pfizer vaccine and to begin administering it to its front-line health workers.

“After all that we’ve been through in 2020, yesterday truly was a day of hope,” Hogan said at a news conference in Annapolis. “While we still have several months of difficult struggles ahead of us, this is a turning point and a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and the beginning of the end of this deadly pandemic.”

This will be “the largest and most important” vaccination campaign in the history of the state and nation, Hogan said. An outreach campaign focused on vaccinations is planned, including statewide public service announcements.

The state is getting an initial 155,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Maryland officials expect to receive a total of 300,000 doses by the end of the month, but say the number depends on vaccine production.

Vaccines are being sent directly to hospitals. Every Maryland hospital will get an allocation of the initial 155,000 doses from the two companies, Chan said.

The state also will provide some vaccines to health care workers in Washington, D.C., who live in Maryland, said Hogan, who added that he plans to discuss regional planning Wednesday with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats.

With front-line health care workers and first responders among those getting the vaccine first in Maryland, state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. are advocating for the shots for school staff.

Salmon announced Tuesday that she asked the Maryland Department of Health last Thursday to include teachers, school staff and child care workers “as the first priority” in the stage of vaccine distribution for essential employees.

“Prolonged school closures,” she said, “have resulted in our children experiencing diminished academic achievement and social-emotional distress.”

And Olszewski, a Democrat, asked Hogan in a letter to “include public school educators among your essential worker priority groups.”

The state’s draft plan for vaccine distribution includes educators and child care workers in the phase 2 priority group, Chan said. Front-line health care workers and nursing home residents and staff are in the current 1A phase.

The next phase, 1B, is for people at significantly higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Phase 2 is for people with critical and essential roles in the state’s infrastructure, as well as for people at a moderately high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. The general population is in Phase 3 of the state’s plan.

In the coming weeks, the health department plans to launch a dashboard detailing the number of vaccines that have been administered by county, age, race and other demographics.

Hogan said the state has conducted 5.1 million coronavirus tests.

That includes using 500,000 tests the state bought from a South Korean company, LabGenomics. The state purchased an initial batch of the tests in April for $9 million, then returned them after officials determined they were slow to reveal results, Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told the state Board of Public Works earlier this month. The state then spent another $2.5 million for 500,000 replacement tests.

State legislative auditors are evaluating the acquisition as part of a review of emergency purchases during the pandemic.

The governor again defended the state’s purchase of the tests. His office sent out a news release during his news conference that outlined their use and said the Board of Public Works had approved emergency procurements submitted by state health officials.

And Hogan touted a deal made by CIAN Diagnostics, a lab in Frederick, to buy 1 million tests from LabGenomics. Representatives of the companies could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.

While the vaccines are providing hope for many, officials urged Marylanders to continue to take precautions and warned against misinformation, particularly on social media.

People who receive the vaccine should expect soreness at the injection site, Chan said. Some people have had other symptoms, such as a low-grade fevers.

“The symptoms show that the vaccine is working,” she said.

Hogan did not order any new restrictions on businesses or on social gatherings Tuesday, as some local leaders in Maryland’s most populous counties have imposed recently. Montgomery County became the latest Tuesday to put new rules in place, including a prohibition on indoor dining.

Baltimore Sun reporters Alex Mann and Ben Leonard contributed to this article.

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