While shopping at the Walmart in Fallston last week, Harford County Health Department spokesperson Molly Mraz was surprised to hear an announcement on the store’s PA system that the pharmacy had doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine available immediately for anyone in the store that wanted their shot.
“I heard the announcement and was like, ‘That’s crazy. I wonder if anyone is going to go over and get their vaccine?’ ” Mraz said.
Now that more than 70% of Marylanders have been at least partially vaccinated, interest has waned for the shot that less than 90 days ago had residents jumping virtual lines and forming Facebook groups to track down an elusive appointment.
“The demand is not there anymore,” Mraz said.
In Harford County, about 53% of residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Monday, according to the latest data on the Harford County Health Department’s website. About 45% have been fully vaccinated, according to the agency.
As a result, the mass vaccination clinic at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen will administer its last doses of the vaccine on June 19, about two months after it opened.
More than 17,000 total doses of vaccine — including first, second and single doses — have been administered at the Ripken Stadium site since it opened April 22, according to Charles Gischlar, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Health.
The Ripken site, which had been giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, began offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week and will continue to do so until it closes later this month, Mraz said.
Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, said he appreciated the governor responding to his request for a mass vaccination site for the region and that the county would continue to promote other avenues for other people to get vaccinated locally.
Officials last week also closed the COVID-19 testing site in Aberdeen, which had been located in a temporary building set up in the parking lot of the planned University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health free-standing medical facility off Route 22.
More than 21,000 swab tests had been given there since testing began Oct. 1, Mraz said.
And the county health department itself has begun winding down its immunization clinics, which it is having a hard time filling, she said. It recently requested to no longer receive first doses of the Moderna vaccine from the state.
The agency is still getting about 1,700 second doses weekly, which will be the focus of its next clinic Tuesday at the Woodbridge Shopping Center in Edgewood. It still has a few first doses of the vaccine in storage, capped at 15 per week, for any walk-ins requesting the vaccine.
“We’re not turning people away,” Mraz said, “but we are recommending that they call the health department at 410-838-1500 to check availability on first doses.”
She described those still seeking a first doses as the “stragglers” — people who were interested in being vaccinated but were on the fence waiting to see if there were any side effects with the early adopters.
Most people, however, are no longer coming to the health department or the mass vaccination clinics to get their shots.
“It’s just so easy now to walk up at a pharmacy and get the vaccine,” Mraz said.
Finding doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the only one approved thus far for children ages 12 and older, can be a bit more of a challenge but only slightly.
Ronya Nassar, a public health analyst for the Harford County Health Department, recommended parents go to vaccinefinder.org and search for area pharmacies offering the Pfizer shot. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, a search turned up about 50 results within 25 miles of Bel Air, although about half those listed were “out of stock.”
The health department partnered with Upper Chesapeake Health and Harford County Public Schools to offer the Pfizer shot to students last month, and the second round of those shots are being administered this week.
Nearly 1,100 students were vaccinated by the health department, Nassar said.
Mraz said she isn’t sure if the health department will have another clinic for youngsters over the summer, but it could offer the COVID-19 shot to youth in August along with other immunizations as part of the agency’s annual back-to-school push on required vaccines.
Over the summer, the department plans to use the expanded reach it gained on social media during the pandemic for general public health messaging about things like diabetes, breast cancer and summer safety. While the agency will continue to spread the importance of masking and vaccines, metrics indicating the amount of the coronavirus circulating in the community have improved significantly over the past two months.
Harford’s positivity rates of 1.36% on Monday and 1.38% on Tuesday are the lowest they have been since the very earliest days of the pandemic, when testing was not as widespread, and a far cry from the 10% rate that was reported at the beginning of April.
The average weekly case rate of 2.4 per 100,000 people in Harford is also the lowest that metric has been since April 2020 and another drastic improvement since it approached 35 per 100,000 on April 1 of this year.