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‘We’re moving along’: Nearly 15,000 Carroll County residents have received COVID-19 vaccine

Some 15,000 Carroll countians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including some three-quarters of those in long-term care facilities, more than one-third of school system employees and basically any first responder who wanted it, Health Officer Ed Singer told the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday.

While the commissioners and Singer agreed that amount of vaccine Carroll is receiving from the state is not nearly enough to accommodate all who want to be vaccinated, they noted progress is being made.

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“We’re getting there,” Singer told the commissioners during their weekly open session. “We aren’t as far along as we’d like to be, but at least we’re moving along.”

While the state has moved onto group 1C in its vaccine distribution plan, Carroll County remains in 1B, which includes those 75 and older as well as education employees. Singer very few requests for a first dose are coming from anyone in 1A, which includes health care workers and first responders. He estimated that 70-80% of those in 1A have received the vaccine and most of the remainder declined it.

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Singer presented Carroll County Health Department data showing that the vaccine had been administered to 14,418 countians with 500 more scheduled to be vaccinated Thursday. Of those, more than 6,000 doses had been administered by the health department, some 2,500 by Carroll Hospital and the rest either by pharmacies servicing elder care facilities in Carroll or by facilities or workplaces outside of the county that had vaccinated Carroll residents.

Data shows that COVID-19 cases have been declining in Carroll County, but Singer said the path back to normalcy is getting most people vaccinated.

Health department numbers showed that 2,238 out of 7,086 in the “education and continuity of government” section of 1B have been vaccinated, including 225 on Wednesday. Those qualifying now include staff members from McDaniel and Carroll Community colleges as higher education was moved into 1B. Singer noted that all workers for Carroll County Public Schools, from teachers to instructional assistants to bus drivers to food service workers qualify.

Additionally, health department numbers show 2,610 out of an estimated 11,348 in Carroll who are 75 or over have been vaccinated, not including the 500 scheduled for Thursday. Singer said “roughly 75 percent” of those living in long-term care facilities have been vaccinated.

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“We’re giving a percentage of doses to the education sector, but we’re really trying to concentrate on the 75-plus group,” he said.

Vaccination clinics are no longer limited to Westminster as officials said it was important to make it easier for the older populations of all geographic segments of Carroll to be able to access the vaccine. Thursday’s clinic was held at South Carroll Senior Center. Next week, one is scheduled for Taneytown. After that, plans are to hold clinics in Mount Airy and then in the North Carroll area.

“It’s a heavy lift right now as public works folks are dealing with snow removal,” Singer said. “We think it’s important to reach each part of the county.”

Singer said next week will be the busiest to date for the health department in terms of vaccinations. The plan is to administer 1,300 first doses to those 75 and older and to educators, and also to administer 1,500 second (final) doses. He reiterated that his department would have no problem administering 5,000 doses a week if that was how much vaccine the state was providing.

When demand begins to dwindle among the members of 1B, Singer said, that’s how they will know it’s time to move to the next group. As he has done in the past, Singer said pharmacies will be a tremendous resource for getting the vaccine out to the general public at some point in the future, as is the case with flu vaccinations, but he added that “right now, we have the ability to reach the right people.”

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, asked Singer if Carroll countians could be vaccinated at mass clinics run by the state, the first of which is opening Friday. Singer said they could and that the health department is posting links about other such clinics on its website.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked Singer if he thought we were looking at a minimum of another five months to get most Carroll residents vaccinated.

“It depends on how quickly some of these other vaccines become available,” Singer said. “It is going to be several months at least.”

Singer said anyone who falls into a group that already qualifies for the vaccine or is in a group that will soon qualify who hasn’t already registered to sign up through the health department website or call the COVID-19 hotline at 410-876-4848.

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