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Health official: 30% of Carroll County residents at least partially vaccinated against COVID

About 30% of Carroll County residents — more people than could fit into Oriole Park at Camden Yards — have been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 as more and more people are becoming eligible and getting shots.

According to Carroll County Health Department statistics that Health Officer Ed Singer shared during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, 51,526 county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Health Planner Maggie Kunz told the Times that 29,752 Carroll countians are fully vaccinated.

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“I’m expecting that to exponentially increase as more vaccine becomes available,” Singer said. “We’re making progress.”

At 30%, which translates to about 38% of residents who are over 18, Carroll is doing a little better than Maryland as a whole. State health officials said Thursday that 1.75 million residents have received at least one dose and that more than 1 million Marylanders (16.6% of the state’s total population) have now been fully vaccinated.

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Singer said the Carroll health department is now scheduling and vaccinating those falling into Phase 2B of the state’s vaccine distribution list, including anyone 16 and over with underlying health conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes and Down syndrome among others.

Beginning next week, the health department will begin scheduling for Phase 2C, including individuals who are 55 to 59 years old as well as workers in critical fields such as construction and food services. They will be able to start receiving shots April 13, based on vaccine availability.

The 51,526 number doesn’t include the 488 that Singer said were vaccinated Wednesday at a clinic in Taneytown or the 1,700 or so who were to be vaccinated Thursday or Friday at two Westminster clinics. Last week, the health department administered 2,471 doses, an all-time high, and this week expects more than 2,000.

The health department has administered about 27,500 doses. That means some 24,000 county residents were vaccinated at work, a pharmacy or a state-run mass site, such as those at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore or the outlets at Hagerstown.

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Based on health department figures, 77.9% of Carroll countians age 75 or older have been vaccinated and Singer said that number would be well over 80% by the end of the week. The number of Carroll residents age 65 or older who have been vaccinated is 71.5%. In terms of equity, 84.9% of Black people older than 75 have been vaccinated, but only 33.8% of Hispanic people have been vaccinated. Singer said he has been working with groups to find ways to “reach out to our Hispanic population, so we can get everybody access to the vaccine.”

Singer said they are seeing older people at clinics who were initially reluctant to be vaccinated and are now changing their minds and getting the shot after finding that friends and neighbors have been vaccinated. For those still concerned about the vaccine’s efficacy or side effects, he said, “There’s really no reason for people not to get vaccinated at this point.”

While the studies and statistics are important, Singer said, he also shared some real-life anecdotes and tangible examples that underscore the importance of the vaccination. Singer said, throughout the course of the pandemic, what the health department has seen in most cases is when one member of a household becomes infected, everyone in the household becomes infected.

“What we’ve been seeing recently with people who are fully vaccinated, the people in the household are getting it, but the people who are vaccinated are not getting it and not having any symptoms,” he said. “These vaccines are very effective.”

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked Singer if the county would be getting any more of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Singer said typically the county is getting only the Moderna vaccine from the state and that the Pfizer vaccine procured in a deal with LifeBridge Health will be used by the end of the week. He said they received and administered 300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it was introduced several weeks ago and that they received another 200 doses this week.

“We’re trying to use [the Johnson & Johnson vaccine] strategically,” Singer said, noting they are targeting populations where it is difficult to get people to return for a second shot, such as those who are experiencing homelessness. He said physicians offices and mass vaccination sites are likely to be receiving more Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the state.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, asked about side effects, noting that two weeks ago Winfield Elementary School had to be closed because so many teachers were out the day after receiving their second vaccine dose.

“Unfortunately, all the people at the facility got their doses at the same time,” Singer said, referring to the Winfield situation. “Some people aren’t seeing any effects. Some people are seeing side effects, giving them COVID-like symptoms but obviously not giving them COVID.”

He said most of the side effects are associated with the second dose, although for people who have previously been infected with COVID-19, the side effects come after the first dose. At any rate, Singer said worries about side effects shouldn’t keep anyone from getting vaccinated.

“It’s certainly better to have side effects from the vaccine than ending up in the hospital or dying of COVID,” Singer said. “Much like the masks, they’re [just] a little bit of an inconvenience.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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