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How to increase your odds of getting the COVID vaccine on time in Maryland

Amid the limited supply of coronavirus vaccines and reports of health officials having to cancel some vaccination appointments due to overbooking “hundreds” of first-dose appointments, it can be frustrating for Marylanders to figure out when it will be their turn to get immunized.

While the state dictates much of how the process will work, there are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t miss your opportunity to get your first dose.

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Know your ‘priority group’

First and most importantly, you should identify any factors about your health or age that may qualify you to participate in the current round of vaccinations. Having an intellectual or development disability, working a public safety job or being 65 or older all qualify someone to be eligible for the vaccine.

Maryland is currently in Phase 1C, which saw the state expand vaccine eligibility to people ages 65 to 74 as well as a broader set of essential workers, such as those in agriculture and manufacturing. You can find out more about who qualifies in Phase 1C, as well as the previous 1A and 1B phases, at covidlink.maryland.gov/content/vaccine.

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If you don’t meet any of these requirements, that means you could be in Phase 2, which further expands eligibility to adults ages 16 to 64 “at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness due to comorbidities,” as well as essential workers in food services, critical utilities and transportation.

If you don’t meet any of those requirements, then you’re waiting for Phase 3, which will be when the state opens up vaccine eligibility for all Maryland residents.

Know what priority group your city or county is in

While the state is in Phase 1C, it’s important to check if your jurisdiction has followed suit as several did not start vaccinating people in that priority group due to a lack of vaccine doses.

When the state expanded to Phase 1C on Jan. 25, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties, as well as Baltimore City, did not start vaccinating that group because of the scarcity of available doses.

Your best bet is to check your jurisdiction’s health department website for more information.

Sign up for your doctor’s online medical records tools

Having your medical records online could make it easier for officials to identify when you’re eligible for a vaccination.

Johns Hopkins Medicine is encouraging people to activate a MyChart account as they attempt to reach people, via email or phone, to schedule their vaccination appointment.

In addition, make sure your doctor’s office has up-to-date information on how to contact you.

Sign up for the vaccine online

You can sign up for a vaccine through the state, a county health department or certain health care providers.

The Baltimore Sun has a helpful list of all the various websites being offered by state and local agencies, as well as the hospitals.

Help elderly and other vulnerable people with the internet

While getting information about the vaccine is easier for those with the internet, it can be challenging for vulnerable sections of the population without regular internet access.

Older residents are considered at a higher risk of dying due to the virus, yet they may have trouble navigating the state’s website or various online resources to get updated on their eligibility and to schedule an appointment.

In addition, those whose first language isn’t English may have issues understanding the latest updates as to eligibility without help.

If you can help someone who might have issues connecting to the various internet resources on the vaccine, help them get signed up for information in their jurisdictions.

Don’t leave without scheduling the next shot

The first dose of the vaccine is only half the battle against the coronavirus, so don’t leave without scheduling an appointment for your second dose.

In addition to the first shot, a booster shot needs to be scheduled either three or four weeks after receiving the first dose, depending on whether you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Still need more info?

With all the changing information and circumstances surrounding the vaccine rollout, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you still have more questions.

For more information, go to coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine.

For those who prefer a phone call, the state provides a toll-free number at 1-877-463-3464.

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