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FEMA mobile vaccine clinic in Aberdeen reaching Harford’s more vulnerable members closer to home

Now that Havre de Grace residents Herschel and Karen Privett are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they are eagerly awaiting a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, next month, as well as getting to baseball games.

“It was great,” Karen Privett, 59, said after getting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday at a mobile clinic operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the parking lot of Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

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“I’m glad it’s over — I don’t like shots, but it’s done,” she added.

The vaccines are available by appointment only, and all appointments have been filled, according to local, state and federal officials at the clinic Friday afternoon. The clinic opened last Saturday and is scheduled to be in operation through Sunday, before it is taken to another part of the state.

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Designed to reach vulnerable members of the community in areas that have lower vaccination rates than other parts of the county and state, the clinic is a collaboration between FEMA, Harford County government and health department and the state Department of Health.

“I think it’s a good example of local, state and federal government working together, and hopefully we’re going to win this race against the different variants [of COVID] and the virus that we have out there,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said.

Glassman expects the clinic will “really help us with our outreach in some of our vulnerable communities, to make sure we’ve got equity, and that we can get a shot in everyone’s arm that we can identify.”

He noted it can help deliver shots to residents in “smaller pockets” of the community, such as those who cannot travel long distances, are homebound, live in rural parts of the county, older adults and people with disabilities.

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“If we’re going to get life back to normal and get our economy back to normal, it really is going to take everyone to get vaccinated,” said Glassman, who has received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Local volunteers and FEMA staffers have been giving the shots, which are provided by the state. The mobile clinic has the capacity to deliver 250 vaccines per day, according Zane Hadzick of FEMA external affairs.

The county health department, which has seen about 3,500 residents pre-register for vaccine appointments each week, reached out to people on its lists and offered them appointments with the FEMA mobile clinic, according to county Health Officer Dr. David Bishai.

“We’ve identified Aberdeen as having a lower vaccine coverage rate than other parts of the county,” said Bishai. “We needed to make availability happen right here in Aberdeen to lower that barrier.”

About 25% of people living in the 21001 Aberdeen Zip code have been vaccinated, according to figures on the Harford County Health Department’s website, last updated Wednesday.

The mobile clinic is one of multiple options Harford residents have when it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. About 9,000 residents are getting vaccinated each week all around the state, whether that is through a county health department site, private pharmacies, private health care providers or state-run mass vaccination sites, according to Bishai, who said the health department has vaccinated 20% of the county’s population.

A state mass vaccination site is scheduled to open at Ripken Stadium on Thursday, April 22, Marcy Austin, the county’s deputy health officer, told the Harford County Council earlier this week. Bishai said having the mass site will “really up our game” and could increase the rate of vaccinations in Harford to 15,000 to 20,000 per week.

“That’s how we’re going to get the entire county vaccinated by the middle of the summer,” he said.

Anyone 18 and older can pre-register to get a vaccine appointment; more information about registering is available at the health department website.

“If you’re 18 or over, come to the health department website, pre-register, and we’ll get you an appointment, probably within seven to 10 days,” Bishai said.

Herschel Privett, a 65-year-old Army veteran who served during the era of the Vietnam War, already received his two-shot Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine through the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Cecil County.

His wife, Karen, said it has been “very challenging” to get an appointment for herself, though, and she and her husband were referred to the FEMA clinic by members of the Susquehanna Hose Company, the volunteer fire company serving Havre de Grace.

The couple has spent the past year staying home to protect themselves against the spread of COVID, but the season ticket holders for the minor league Aberdeen IronBirds, who play at Ripken Stadium, are eager to get out and about.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Herschel said of staying home. “We actually got a lot of stuff done around the house.”

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