Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he’ll announce “shortly” the next steps of expanding eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine in Maryland, as the state expects supplies to increase.
During a visit to a vaccine clinic in Prince George’s County, the Republican governor said White House officials just told governors to expect a boost in vaccine doses starting March 29.
“We’re not going to see an increased supply for the next two weeks,” Hogan said, but after the 29th, “we’re going to see a fairly dramatic increase.”
Other states have announced plans to expand eligibility for the vaccine, in anticipation of the increased supply, as well as Democratic President Joe Biden’s pledge that all adults should be eligible to get vaccinated starting May 1.
Hogan said in an interview that Maryland will be careful not to go too fast and will balance the incoming supply with the increased demand that would come from opening up eligibility. He didn’t say when, exactly, an expansion of eligibility would take place in Maryland.
“We’re probably going to have an announcement about that shortly,” Hogan said. “It was based on the information we got today on the availability. We’re concerned some states might be opening things up without any vaccines.”
The state expects significant increases in the delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which require two shots, and a consistent and increasing supply of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine starting the week of March 29, according to the governor’s office.
The state is surveying medical providers to determine how many currently eligible Marylanders, particularly those ages 65 and older, still need to be vaccinated. As of Tuesday morning, the state reported about 710,000 people (about 12% of Maryland’s population) have been fully immunized.
A week ago, Alaska became the first state to open vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves followed suit Tuesday, tweeting: “Get your shot friends - and let’s get back to normal!”
Leaders of several other states have announced imminent plans to do so, including Ohio by March 29, Michigan and Connecticut by April 5 and the District of Columbia by May 1.
Other states have announced plans to dramatically expand vaccine eligibility, either lowering the age threshold significantly or by allowing people with any of a long list of health conditions to get a shot. That includes Delaware, which will open up vaccine eligibility Wednesday to any resident over 50 or with a moderate-risk health condition.
Some in Maryland are anxious to be eligible for the vaccine, or at least to know when they might become eligible.
Meg McCormick, a 53-year-old human resources director from Gaithersburg, just wants to know when it will be her turn, especially after hearing stories of people gaming the system to get immunized.
“As it wears on, it’s harder and harder to be patient,” McCormick said. “I have a strong sense of fairness and I’m happy to wait my turn. It would just be nice to know when my turn is.”
Maryland faced a problem of demand outstripping supply in January, when the state swiftly moved from Phase 1A of eligibility, which was largely health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, to Phase 1B and Phase 1C, which opened up eligibility to everyone older than 65 and many essential workers.
All told, more than 2 million people are eligible in Phase 1, and about 14,000 doses per day are being sent to the state’s mass vaccination sites, hospitals, pharmacies and local health departments.
Those seeking vaccine appointments through a patchwork of public and private websites and waitlists have complained about the process, in which newly available appointments have been snapped up in minutes. Facebook groups have popped up to share tips and to help people to secure appointments.
Vaccination rates have lagged among Black and Latino residents, and in majority-Black jurisdictions including Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. Some have pointed to the fractured appointment-setting system as a culprit, and the state just launched a unified preregistration website covering the mass vaccination sites.
Maryland’s Phase 2 will include adults younger than 65 with serious health issues and more essential workers — including restaurant workers, who currently are not eligible for the shot despite Hogan lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants last week.
Phase 3 will include the rest of the population age 16 and older.
Ed Singer, president of the Maryland Association of County Health Officers, said it’s hard to predict how demand and supply will shake out over the weeks between now and Biden’s May 1 goal.
“We are making a lot of progress and we are still six weeks out from that,” said Singer, who is Carroll County’s health officer.
Singer said it’s possible that the state may be able to vaccinate most of the vulnerable people in Phase 1 before May 1.
Baltimore Sun reporters Meredith Cohn, Alex Mann and Bryn Stole contributed to this article.