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Howard County government, agencies prepare to administer third dose of COVID vaccine

Howard County officials assured residents that booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccines would soon be available and that residents with moderately or severely immunocompromised systems can now receive a third dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not authorized booster shots, which are designed to improve the effectiveness of the vaccine which may decrease after time, said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball at a Friday news conference at the Ellicott City 50+ Center.

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“Many of our older adults and our seniors, who were some of the first to receive their vaccines, are feeling anxious or unsure,” Ball said. “We anticipate booster shots will begin to be available by the end of this month or early October, but we are waiting for final approval by the FDA.”

The county is already planning for booster clinics and is awaiting details as to the spacing of initial doses and whom will be eligible, according to Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County’s health officer.

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“Our clinics will be available by appointment for those eligible,” Rossman said. “Currently we are hearing an eight-month period since your second shot.”

On Friday, President Joe Biden’s plans to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 are facing new complications that could delay the availability of third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said.

Third doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are meant for immunocompromised people who might not build the same level of immunity after vaccination as others do, and may benefit from an extra dose, Rossman said.

“People should talk to their medical providers about their medical conditions and whether or not an additional dose is appropriate for them,” Rossman said. “If the third dose is recommended, you can reach out to the health department, local pharmacies, retail stores and your medical provider to get your third shot at least 28 days after your last COVID vaccine.”

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To assist with organizing COVID-19 vaccine booster clinics, the county’s Office on Aging and Independence, the Howard County Health Department and the Department of Fire and Rescue Services Mobile Integrated Community Health team have partnered again, said Jenna Crawley, administrator for the Office of Aging and Independence.

The organizations have worked together before, Crawley said, to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations clinics to older adults and individuals living with disabilities across Howard County’s independent living facilities and small assisted living homes.

“As a result of the strong collaboration across county agencies, Howard County was the second area agency on aging in the state of Maryland, to complete a vaccine clinic at all independent living facilities, insuring the safe vaccination of over 600 older adults.”

The Maryland Department of Health announced this week that Howard County was the first jurisdiction to have 70% of its population vaccinated, Ball said, and that 83% of all eligible residents had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. He thanked all the residents who had “rolled up their sleeves and got the vaccine.”

As to requiring county employees to be vaccinated, Ball said that the county was always evaluating the situation.

“We are always focused on the goal and the goal is to save people’s lives and keep them healthy,” Ball said. “We have always been willing to make the tough choices but we’re only willing to make the tough choices that make the most sense for our community. And we will continue to make those tough choices and that means we will consider every and any intervention to save lives.”

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