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Maryland to expand walk-up COVID vaccinations, target college campuses and major employers

Maryland will expand no-appointment, walk-up vaccine lines and partner with major employers and college campuses in an effort to inoculate more residents against COVID-19 under what Gov. Larry Hogan billed as a “No Arm Left Behind” initiative at a Wednesday press conference in Annapolis.

The expansion came as Hogan announced that Maryland had administered more than 4 million doses of vaccines — many of them part of a two-shot regime — and that more than 55% of adults in Maryland now have gotten at least one dose.

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That progress still leaves Maryland well short of the widespread immunity needed to stop the spread of the virus and “we still have a ways to go before we can declare mission accomplished,” Hogan said.

The latest no-appointment vaccination lines will open Thursday at the mass vaccination sites at the Baltimore Convention Center — with shots there reserved for city residents only — as well as the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis and the Greenbelt Metro Station in Prince George’s County. Hogan said the state also is launching additional mobile vaccine clinics.

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Morgan State University will start hosting a three-day-a-week vaccine clinic beginning April 30, said Maryland National Guard Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, who leads the the state’s Vaccine Equity Task Force. Birckhead said state officials are also planning an April 26 clinic and town hall on vaccinations at Bowie State University.

State health officials hope to get more college students vaccinated before summer break begins. Hogan said the state is launching on-campus outreach efforts to encourage students to get vaccinated and is reserving some appointments for students at mass vaccination sites. In addition, the state is working with large companies to vaccinate their workers, including Amazon, Comcast, Exelon and Southwest Airlines.

Hogan said it would be up to individual universities and the University of Maryland System’s Board of Regents to decide whether to require students get inoculated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall. Private Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore already announced plans to do so.

The governor said relatively high vaccination rates among older Marylanders — a higher-risk group that was among the first to become eligible for vaccines — offered an encouraging sign that most residents are interested in getting vaccinated. More than 82% of residents 65 or older have gotten at least one shot, said Hogan, adding that he signed an executive order to reopen the state’s senior centers for in-person activities beginning as early as April 30.

State health officials are redoubling efforts to get vaccines to the remaining 18% of older residents, Hogan and Birckhead said, including by directly calling the more than 70,000 Medicaid recipients over age 50 who have not been vaccinated and working with community groups to deliver vaccine doses to harder-to-reach areas of the state.

Hogan encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and to urge those they know to do so, too.

“Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your friends and do it so that all of us can finally put this global pandemic behind us,” he said.

State health officials reported 1,205 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, along with 13 additional deaths.

Hogan said statewide indicators are improving, but said he remains concerned about more worrying local trends in Baltimore City and in Baltimore and Cecil counties — as well higher infection rates in neighboring Pennsylvania, Delaware and other states to the north that may be driven by more infectious variants of the virus.

“The real key is getting everybody vaccinated,” Hogan said.

Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said earlier Wednesday that the decision by federal regulators to temporarily halt the use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine has slowed efforts to deliver shots to the state’s entire adult population. Schrader said Maryland had anticipated using about 100,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines each week in addition to roughly 160,000 weekly doses of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended halting use of the vaccine last week while officials investigated possible links to rare blood clots in six younger women. The CDC is expected to provide updated information and new guidance on the use of the vaccine after a meeting on Friday.

Schrader said he hoped federal regulators would endorse “targeted uses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine” after reviewing the latest data and research.

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