As thousands of Marylanders roll up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine each day, thousands more have been shut out, left with questions about the registration process, the state’s timeline and its capacity for getting interested adults inoculated.
The state’s vaccination campaign has been criticized by lawmakers and federal officials as inefficient and inequitable. Meanwhile, new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus have begun circulating in the United States, threatening to derail the progress of the vaccination rollout.
Here are our answers to readers’ most frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Why is there a vaccine shortage? What needs to happen for things to improve?
The two first authorized vaccines in the United States became available in December, and, since then, demand has far outpaced supply. Both Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s products call for a two-dose regimen for maximum protection against the disease.
Most of the world’s population will need to get inoculated in order to achieve herd immunity — the phenomenon when the virus lacks enough viable hosts to continue spreading. Mass-producing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses and getting them into arms likely will take months, especially if most people need to be vaccinated twice. (No single-dose vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though Johnson & Johnson has applied.)
Vaccinations need a supply of materials, such as syringes, disposable bags and reagents. The coronavirus pandemic slowed manufacturing for several months, making such materials even harder to come by than normal. The U.S. supply chain has not yet caught up.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump passed on an opportunity last year to purchase millions of doses from Pfizer, the first of the two available vaccines to circulate in the U.S.
Inventory should increase once more vaccine products get authorized, which could happen as soon as this month. President Joe Biden’s administration also has purchased more vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna.
When are mass vaccination sites coming online? Can I preregister?
Two mass vaccination sites — one in Baltimore and another in Prince George’s County — opened Friday.
The Baltimore site is located at the Baltimore Convention Center. To register, visit the vaccination site online at umms.org/BCCvaccine. Due to a high volume of requests and limited supply, wait times between submitting a request form and receiving an invitation to schedule could be significant, according to state officials.
Appointments at Prince George’s County’s mass vaccination site, at Six Flags America, are booked until Feb. 15. About 10,000 slots were opened Friday, and were filled within 20 minutes of becoming available. The state says more appointments will be made available in the “near future” and that residents should check the state’s COVID vaccine website.
More mass sites, including at M&T Bank Stadium, are coming soon.
You also can sign up for text alerts for when appointments become available. Text MDReady to 898-211. For Spanish, texto MDListo a 898-211.
How do I verify whether I’m registered?
If you register online, look for a message at the end of the process that confirms your information has been submitted.
But remember, a registration verification message is different from an appointment confirmation. You might not get a time slot right away after registering.
Even Maryland acting secretary of health could not say whether people should be registering more than once or at multiple sites.
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People who need help registering can also do so over the phone. Check your county health department’s website for a phone number, or dial 3-1-1.
Do I have to get vaccinated in the county I live in?
There is no statewide residency requirement, but some counties will only vaccinate people who live and/or work there.
That could change once supply expands and more providers have access to immunizations. For now, check the website of the county health department in which you seek to get vaccinated for more information.
How long will it take for the vaccinations to have an impact on community spread and show up in the case data?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said that 70% to 85% of the country will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, with participants from every community in America.
The timeline depends on how many people line up to get vaccinated once they become eligible, how long it will take for the supply chain to catch up with demand, and how many people will need to be convinced that the vaccine is safe and effective for them and their families. It also might take several more months before vaccines become available for children.
No pocket, enclave or demographic should go without a vaccine, Fauci said. That would make the potential for spreading the virus greater.
The metrics could improve substantially once the people most at risk of contracting serious illness from the disease complete their vaccination regimens. This includes seniors, people with certain health conditions, and people who live or work in close quarters.