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Harford’s request for mobile vaccination units approved, will begin administering COVID shots in Aberdeen April 3-11

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency has approved Harford County’s request for two mobile COVID-19 vaccination units to help reach people in communities where vaccine coverage is lacking.

Deputy Health Officer Marcy Austin said the request for mobile vaccination units had been approved, along with a request for a vaccination “strike team” that would operate alongside the mobile units.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be parking a mobile vaccination unit in the lot at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen from April 3 through April 11, Austin said, and will administer about 250 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine daily, “with a slower start the first couple of days to get acclimated.”

Other sites for the mobile units are still being determined, she said, as the health department is still in the early planning stages.

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“This project also includes a strike team that will go to sites where the vaccine uptake has been lower than other parts of the county and will administer 100 doses a day,” Austin said.

The strike team will go to sites in Edgewood, Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and one northern location, but the exact details are still being planned, she said. The Harford County Health Department will be responsible for finding the sites and scheduling appointments.

Vaccine recipients at the mobile units will require an appointment through the statewide system, PrepMod, which is how the department schedules appointments at its stationary vaccine clinics.

The mobile vaccination units are a direct response to the Harford health department’s efforts to bridge racial inequities in the vaccine’s distribution.

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Recent data shows that Edgewood and Aberdeen are the two areas in the county with the lowest vaccine coverage at 14% and 17%, respectively. Edgewood and Aberdeen also have the largest non-white populations in Harford County, at about 58% and 40%, respectively, according to U.S. Census data.

The Whiteford-Cardiff Zip code in the northeastern part of the county has a vaccination rate of 15%, according to the county health department’s website.

About a week after the county’s health department learned its request for mobile vaccination units was approved, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that a mass vaccination site would be coming to Harford County by the end of April. While the location has not yet been announced, state and federal officials toured Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen over the weekend to evaluate it as a site for a mass vaccination clinic.

County leaders have advocated for Ripken Stadium’s use as a mass vaccination site for months. State lawmakers have also weighed in on the issue, recommending a mass vaccination site for the county, some specifically calling for a clinic at the stadium.

County Executive Barry Glassman said he envisioned a possible mass vaccination clinic at the stadium as a drive-through operation. Ripken Stadium’s location along Interstate 95 and Route 40 would afford vaccine-seekers easier access to the site, which he said could become a regional vaccination hub for Harford, Cecil, Baltimore and Kent counties.

The vacant Mars supermarket at the Woodbridge Shopping Center, off Route 40 in Edgewood, is the only other site under consideration, Glassman said, although he doesn’t think the parking situation is adequate for the volume of people expected at a mass clinic, where state officials aim to get about 3,000 people vaccinated daily.

Maryland will have six operational mass vaccination sites by the end of the week, and 12 by the end of April, Hogan said.

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