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Howard is first jurisdiction in Baltimore area with 50% of residents at least partially vaccinated against COVID

This week, Howard County became the first jurisdiction in the Baltimore region — and second in Maryland — to have 50% of its residents at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 50.05% of all Howard residents — both adults and children — had received at least one dose of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Almost 163,000 of Howard’s approximately 325,500 residents are partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

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“This achievement is a testament to the grassroots effort to quickly vaccinate our seniors, essential workers and reach our most vulnerable communities,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “We’re so grateful to our team for the progress we’ve made in the past four months, and we won’t rest until everyone who wants a vaccine receives one.”

No other jurisdiction in the Central Maryland region is above 42% in vaccinations for all residents. Talbot County on the Eastern Shore was the first Maryland county to cross the 50% threshold. More than half of its 37,000 residents were vaccinated as of Monday.

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One-third of Howard county residents — about 108,000 people — are fully vaccinated against the virus, having received either both doses of the two-shot vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The 50% number means that within four weeks a slight majority of Howard countians could be fully vaccinated, since those who have only received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are in a three- to four-week waiting period for their second dose.

“Reaching 50% of our population with vaccines is a fantastic milestone,” Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of the work done by not only the health department, but by our partner agencies who have assisted in every facet of the clinic process.”

The vast majority of Howard residents received the two-dose vaccines, but 3% — or about 10,000 people — got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That vaccine is currently not being administered in Maryland and across the U.S. after the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a temporary pause last week after six people developed a rare blood clot after inoculation. A decision on whether to resume administering the vaccine, which is easier to store and give to people in rural communities, is likely to come Friday.

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Behind Howard, Baltimore County has the second-highest vaccination rate in the Baltimore area at 41.81%. Carroll is at 41.5%, while 40.44% of Harford residents and 40.02% of Anne Arundel residents are at least partially vaccinated. Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are among the state’s lowest percentages at around 33%. Meanwhile, Montgomery County, the state’s most populated jurisdiction, has a vaccination rate of 46.94%.

About 1.65 million people, or about 27.3% of Maryland’s population, have been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. In addition, about 2.34 million people, or about 38.72% of the state’s population, have received at least their first dose of a vaccine.

Another crucial figure is the percentage of Howard’s oldest residents who have been vaccinated. Nearly 80% of all people in Howard 65 or older are fully vaccinated, the highest percentage in the state, according to county health data. In addition, 99% of those 75 or older and 90% of people 65 to 74 in Howard County have received at least one shot.

The county’s most vulnerable population being vaccinated has caused Howard’s death toll from the virus to sharply decline. In the past three months, 35 people in Howard have died from COVID-19, while 202 people died from the virus in the previous 10 months. In total, 237 Howard residents have died from the virus that has killed 8,406 statewide and about 567,000 in the U.S.

Despite the improving vaccination numbers, the county’s coronavirus metrics have plateaued at moderate levels.

As of Tuesday, Howard County’s weekly positivity rate — which measures the percent at which tests return positive over a seven-day period — is 5%, according to the Maryland Department of Health. That rate is much lower than in January when it reached 8% but higher than in early March when it was down to 3%. The current rate is exactly the bench mark that the CDC and World Health Organization have said is needed before relaxing social distancing and business capacity restrictions.

Meanwhile, Howard’s seven-day rolling new-case rate — which measures the average number of new cases on a single day over a weeklong period — is 17.33 per 100,000 residents. The case rate is significantly better than the dangerously high rate of approximately 49 per 100,000 in mid-January but worse than early March when it was around 9 per 100,000.

“While achieving 50% inoculation of the population is commendable, we still have many more to vaccinate,” Rossman said. “Our younger population is currently experiencing the majority of our COVID-19 cases. It is important that our 20- to 40-year-olds, who are now eligible for vaccines, get vaccinated. The more community members who are vaccinated, the sooner we are able to return to a place of relative normalcy.”

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